How the quest for back pay in the U.S. women's team lawsuit could play out

If the U.S. women’s team lawsuit was simply seeking some adjustments to the current collective bargaining agreement, signed in 2017, the federation would likely make a deal rather quickly.

But the lawsuit also has a reference to “back pay.”

They’ve declined to specify what back pay they’re seeking.

Let’s say it’s everything — all the friendly bonuses (taking the base per-game bonus and adding to win/lose/draw bonuses so that they equal the men’s bonuses) and especially the World Cup bonuses.

Then let’s look at the years 2013-18, using actual results and attendance figures, and plug in the figures from the women’s previous deal (the CBA signed in 2005 and then extended by a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013) and the men’s CBA that’s been in effect throughout that period.

How much money would U.S. Soccer owe the U.S. women’s team?


Just for those six years — we don’t know how far back the women’s team wants to go.

Click HERE or above to access larger image.

Notice that I’ve also included U.S. Soccer financials — not perfectly aligned because the federation operates on a fiscal year ending March 31.

So the women might be asking at the perfect time. U.S. Soccer’s revenue has been trending upward (no, it’s not all because of the women’s team, though they’ve helped) since the federation was nearly broke in the early 2000s. The Copa America Centenario, a men's tournament, brought in almost $72 million over two years — a one-time windfall that accounts for nearly half of the surplus.

U.S. Soccer, the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association and the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association have all been asked to comment on and correct the calculator I’ve used to arrive at these numbers. So far, no one has objected.

Those are the facts. Here are the questions:

Would anyone cry foul over money from a men’s tournament going to pay women a sum that’s well in excess of what they negotiated?

It’s not an easy question. The women signed the previous CBA, the last full-fledged deal until 2017, when women’s soccer was at a low point in the mid-2000s. Perhaps they’re due a big payout.

What sort of precedent would be set?

Let’s be generous and say FIFA triples the Women’s World Cup win bonus to $10 million. Now let’s say the men negotiated a slight raise in their next CBA (they’re currently playing under an expired CBA) to $30 million, and U.S. Soccer is compelled to match that for the women.

That would mean every time the U.S. women win the World Cup, U.S. Soccer would lose $20 million.

Perhaps they can make up that money in increased sponsorship. At least part of it. That’s much more difficult to quantify, even with Allstate paying up for a Victory Tour and getting the U.S. women to toss out the part of the new CBA that said a post-event tour would take place only on FIFA dates.

Should more of that money go to the next generation?

You may have noticed that the U.S. men aren’t doing that well. At youth level, they’re doing a bit better — three straight U-20 quarterfinals, and the quarterfinals of the last U-17 tournament.

The women’s youth teams are in free fall. The U-17s haven’t made it past the group stage since 2008. The U-20s have been better but didn’t get out of the group stage in 2018.

To rectify the situation, we’ve seen a lot of suggestions along these lines ...

Spend money on the boys and girls Development Academies, maybe even making all of them free.

Do everything possible to give every kid in the country access to a soccer field.

Do everything possible to get scouts to identify talented players and coaches to coach those players everywhere in the country.

Along those lines, rev up the declining Olympic Development Program.

Spend more on the NWSL. (That’s the U.S. professional women’s league, in case you’re someone who just arrived on the women’s scene.)

And in the contentious 2018 U.S. Soccer presidential election, we heard all sorts of other suggestions for the surplus.

Futsal, futsal, futsal. Men’s and women’s.

Paralympic soccer — note that U.S. Soccer is scrambling to start a 5-a-side (visually impaired) team, with massive help from the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, in response to a shocking change in the Paralympics to keep that game in the Games while eliminating the 7-a-side (physically impaired) game in which the USA are competitive.

The U.S. Open Cup — marketing, travel costs, etc.

To do it all, U.S. Soccer would need a concerted effort to pull everyone together in the search for more income. That would mean ending the in-fighting among everyone from youth soccer fiefdoms to the exploding gender war among U.S. fans.

So the legislation introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin to ban federal support for the 2026 World Cup unless U.S. Soccer institutes “equitable pay,” not defined in Manchin’s bill (I’ve asked Manchin’s office and the office of West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, whose letter prompted Manchin’s action, to elucidate) is probably not the way to go.

To spend money, U.S. Soccer is going to have to make more. Then maybe everyone — the current women’s and men’s teams, the next generations, the scouts, the coaching educators and people trying to fulfill the federation’s mandate of soccer for everyone — can get the support they’re seeking.

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10 comments about "How the quest for back pay in the U.S. women's team lawsuit could play out".
  1. uffe gustafsson, July 10, 2019 at 6:31 p.m.

    Can someone with economics explain what the women’s first Collum and second are so different?
    I tried to figure it out but can’t

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, July 10, 2019 at 6:56 p.m.

    Can't explain it because it is yearly aggregates rather than rates of pay.

    From looking at the "fringe" category, I suspect that the pay rates for women are lower than the men, but that is just a guess.

  3. Beau Dure replied, July 10, 2019 at 8:50 p.m.

    Between 2013 and 2014?

  4. s fatschel, July 11, 2019 at 11:27 a.m.

    After reading all of the opinions from media and this site its very refreshing for someone to actually do and SHOW the math.  Not a strength of soccer types in general.  IMHO US Soccer can adjust slighlty but contracting and salary can not be compared because of different risk/reward with each. Also US Soccer can not be responsible for FIFA prize money, thats world wide.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, July 11, 2019 at 12:32 p.m.

    The US women's lawsuit is "interesting" but it isn't complicated or complex litigation. It isn't even big enough to justify use of class action proceedures. 

    What you call the "math" is really the "measure of damages" for a cause of action. Lawyers and accountants do that type of calculation routinely.

  6. s fatschel replied, July 12, 2019 at 5:11 p.m.

    BA: Cant read the word "SHOW"?  This is the first I have seen of someone showing the math. 

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, July 13, 2019 at 12:52 a.m.

    An Equal Pay Act case, the "math" would be for (a woman paid at a rate less than the lowest man):

    Amount of work performed times (the lowest man's rate minus the women's rate) = amount of recovery.

    This amount would be subject to adjustment for successful affirmative defenses.

    That is how much backpay a person would recover. Add up all the individual recovers and the total is how much USSF would pay out.

    It is really just a simple accounting exercise once the liability issues are resolved. Before the "establishment" is determined, damages can only be estimated.

  8. Ben Myers, July 11, 2019 at 12:07 p.m.

    Two comments.
    First, coaching, coaching, COACHING quality needs to be upgraded significantly starting at the lowest and youngest levels of the game.
    Second, USSF is not directly responsible for the FIFA womens' prize money pot, but, for Pete's sake, they can argue and lobby for it, can't they?

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, July 11, 2019 at 12:25 p.m.

    The lawsuit is about discrimination in USSF's bonus payments, not FIFA's. Although the women are working to get FIFA to increase the bonus payments for the finals as well as to increase their financial and political support generally of the woman's game, to expand the sport to women in more countires. 

    Did you realize in the past even England made it illegal for women to play soccer?

  10. Ahmet Guvener, July 11, 2019 at 12:52 p.m.

    Excellent informative article...

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