The US Soccer Federation has reached a ruling proclaimed as a landmark
The US Soccer Federation (USSF) has reached agreements that will see members of its men's national team (USMNT) and women's national team (USWNT) paid equally, which is said to be a first in sport.
The federation announced the deals, which will run until 2028, with the unions for both teams on Wednesday after years of negotiations and the settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit a group of women's players brought forward in 2019.
That settlement was contingent on the US federation striking labor contracts which offered equal pay and bonuses across the two teams, and one of the other main sticking points in talks was World Cup money based on how far a team gets in the FIFA showpiece international tournament.
While the USWNT have achieved back-to-back titles and have far outperformed the USMNT, differences in prize money meant they were paid far less than men's winners.
But the unions have now agreed to pool FIFA payments for the men's World Cup in Qatar later this year and in 2026, plus the women's World Cups in 2026 and 2027, at the same time the women have given up guaranteed base salaries of $100,000 for many.
Moving forward, each player will receive matching game appearance fees as the USSF claims to be the first federation to pool its FIFA prize money in this fashion, and there will be identical game bonuses for lesser tournaments in North America plus matching appearance fees and performances payments for friendlies.
USSF previously based its bonuses on FIFA payments, with the global governing body increasing the total prize money to $440 million for Qatar 2022.
At Russia 2018, the prize money was $400 million including $38 million to the champions France compared to $30 million for the 2019's women's World Cup and just $4 million to the champion USWNT.
For the 2023 edition of the women's World Cup, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed doubling the women's prize money to $60 million, and the USSF will pool FIFA funds after taking 10% and then split the rest equally among 23 players on each team for 2022 and 2023.
For the 2026 and 2027 cycles, the USSF's cut will jump to 20% prior to the split among the 46 women's and men's stars.
Celebrating the victory, US women's team forward Margaret Purce said she felt "a lot of pride for the girls who are going to see this growing up, and recognize their value rather than having to fight for it".
"However, my dad always told me that you don't get rewarded for doing what you're supposed to do - and paying men and women equally is what you're supposed to do," Purce continued. "So I'm not giving out any gold stars, but I'm grateful for this accomplishment and for all the people who came together to make it so."
"I think we've outgrown some of the conditions that may look like we have lost something, but now our [professional] league is actually strong enough where now we don't need as many guaranteed contracts, you know, we can be on more of a pay-to-play model," Purce also said.
"We saw it as an opportunity, an opportunity to be leaders in this front and join in with the women's side and US Soccer. So we're just excited that this is how we were able to get the deal done," commented defender Walker Zimmerman.
Other parts of the agreements include child care being extended to men during the national team's training camps and matches as well as the women and men also receiving a slice of revenue from tickets for USSF-controlled matches, broadcasting, partnerships, and sponsors.
"There were moments when I thought it was all going to fall apart and then it came back together and it's a real credit to all the different groups coming together, negotiating at one table," said USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone, who also once played for the women's national team.
"I think that's where the turning point really happened. Before, trying to negotiate a CBA with the women and then turn around and negotiate CBA terms with the men and vice versa, was really challenging. I think the real turning point was when we finally were all in the same room sitting at the same table, working together and collaborating to reach this goal," she finished.
Elsewhere, the counsel for the men's union Mark Levinstein said that the agreement put an end to "more than 20 years of discrimination" against the USWNT.
"Together with the USWNTPA, the USMNT players achieved what everyone said was impossible - an agreement that provides fair compensation to the USMNT players and equal pay and equal working conditions to the USWNT players," Levinstein explained, insisting that the USSF's new leadership should get "tremendous credit for working with the players to achieve these agreements".
This latest development comes after the USSF was ordered to pay $24 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit with a group of past and present USWNT stars, an amount which ex-USWNT goalkeeper criticized for being too low.
As part of their settlement, the group of women's players will divide $22 million, which was around a third of what they had originally hoped to seal, with the extra $2 million used to establish a fund that helps the players navigate their post-soccer careers and women's sports to grow.