U.S. Soccer: Women make more than men, except for FIFA bonuses -- and don't forget about NWSL salaries and USWNT benefits

"Equal pay" is the slogan that has been shouted from France to the West Coast during and after the Women’s World Cup.

On Monday, U.S. Soccer released its response: According to an analysis reviewed by an independent accounting firm, we already pay the women more than we pay the men, except for FIFA bonuses, and don’t forget that we also pay the women’s NWSL salaries and health insurance.

Not exactly a catchy slogan. But after biting its tongue through the World Cup and through the hoopla that followed, even as lawmakers and columnists scored political points punching away at U.S. Soccer without doing the research, the Federation fired back with a few figures of its own.

As with any numbers produced on the women’s national team’s behalf, U.S. Soccer’s numbers have a little bit of interpretation applied. The opening fact of a fact sheet, appended to an open letter to U.S. Soccer members from federation president Carlos Cordeiro, says the women made $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses from 2010 to 2018, while the men only made $26.4 million.

On the next page, though, U.S. Soccer calculates the pay when World Cup bonuses are added -- two World Cups each for the men and women -- and the men take a small lead over the women -- $41.0 million over the same time span to the women’s $39.7 million.

The pay to the U.S. women includes their salaries for playing in the NWSL. On the original Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2013, the 27 initial players received a salary of $50,000 each, stepping up $2,000 a year to $56,000 in 2016. Players who received USSF salaries after the initial round received $40,000-$46,000. Under the 2017 collective bargaining agreement, those salaries range from $62,500 to $70,000 each of the last two years.

Add it up, and NWSL salaries account for somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million for the past six years.

Still, as has been pointed out before, the women’s team is indeed paid more than the men when they win and the men don’t. The men can make much more from a World Cup run because FIFA prize money is so much greater.

Apart from the FIFA money, U.S. Soccer says in its fact sheet, money paid to each team for friendlies isn’t the wide chasm as which it has been portrayed.

“The widely reported claim that our women players currently earn only 38 cents for every dollar earned by our men is false. This claim is based on out-of-date numbers that do not reflect what our women’s players actually earn today. In particular, it overlooks the guaranteed salaries described above. The claim is also based on a hypothetical scenario -- our men and women each playing 20 friendly matches in a year, which has never happened, and receiving the average bonus amount per game. That said, if the men and women ever did play in and win 20 friendlies in a year and were paid the average bonus amount, a women’s player would earn more from U.S. Soccer than the men’s player -- the women’s player would earn at least $307,500 (WNT and NWSL salaries, plus game bonuses) and the men’s player would earn $263,333 (game bonuses only).”

That said, again, the women’s payments include NWSL salaries for those players signed to federation contracts, so the money women would earn just from those 20 friendlies would be less than what the men would earn.

But, again, the women have more opportunities to earn that money. They also get bonuses for the Victory Tour. And health benefits for those contracted players, whose value U.S. Soccer did not attempt to quantify.

And U.S. Soccer claims the men bring in substantially more revenue than the women do -- $185.7 million for 191 games (average $972,174) in the time span in question for the men, $101.3 million for the 238 games (average $425,446) for the women. That calculation does not attempt to parse out the bulk TV rights negotiated as a whole, but it’s consistent with attendance, ratings and revenue information the federation has made public over the years.

Cordeiro’s comments were released three days after both U.S. Soccer and attorneys representing the women’s team filed oppositions to Hope Solo’s motion to be included in ongoing mediation. Solo’s motion included a rather petulant claim from her lawyer, Rich Nichols, that women’s national team lawyer Jeff Kessler has cut him out of discussion about that mediation. The two were once representing the women together -- in 2016, Nichols hailed Kessler as “the best in the business” despite a loss in representing MLS players against U.S. Soccer.

But Nichols, brought in at Solo’s request, was fired before the U.S. women reached their collective bargaining deal with U.S. Soccer, and he left acrimony in his wake.

“(H)is hard-line approach was detrimental to the process, said multiple sources, who described the relationship between the sides as ‘poor’ and ‘contentious’,” reported The Washington Post’s Steven Goff in 2017.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see a parallel between the MLS labor action circa 2000 and the WNT’s current labor action. With Kessler leading the way, MLS players embarked on a futile lawsuit in which the facts simply didn’t back their case, delaying their ability to negotiate a fair deal. Perhaps Kessler has learned a lesson from that, and perhaps the U.S. women don’t want Nichols and Solo delaying their mediation with any more fiery rhetoric.

We’ll have to see whether Cordeiro’s comments delay the process or speed it along. (In a statement, a spokesperson for the women's players said the letter was a "sad attempt to quell the overwhelming tide of support the USWNT has received.") At the very least, U.S. Soccer has brought more facts to the table. What people -- lawmakers, sponsors, players and lawyers -- make of those facts is anyone’s guess.

Photo: Gwendoline Le Goff/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire
25 comments about "U.S. Soccer: Women make more than men, except for FIFA bonuses -- and don't forget about NWSL salaries and USWNT benefits".
  1. Bob Ashpole, July 29, 2019 at 7:37 p.m.

    It is the rate of pay that matters. And you compare the rate of pay for the lowest paid women. Aggregates don't matter. 

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, July 29, 2019 at 7:40 p.m.

    Let me illustrate. If a man earns $1000 for working 10 hours and a women earns $1100 for working 100 hours, that is not equal pay. Aggregates don't matter.

  3. Bob Ashpole, July 29, 2019 at 7:54 p.m.

    Your coverage is sadly one-sided. The USWNTPA responded that in every area the rate of pay for women is lower than the men, but you don't include that in the article. This is the important point of their rejoinder:

    "...the women's team requested the same compensation structure as the men have...USSF refused, ordering lower compensation in every category..." 

  4. Beau Dure replied, July 29, 2019 at 8:44 p.m.

    Because it's not true.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, July 30, 2019 at 2:34 a.m.

    Beau, that is worse then I thought. You are censoring the news based on what allegations by parties in litigation you believe are true. You are telling us what to believe instead of reporting the news.

    Do you have an undisclosed conflict of interest (e.g., do you work for USSF)?

  6. Beau Dure replied, July 30, 2019 at 6:22 a.m.

    Bob, respectfully, you're crossing a line here. Anyway, if I worked for USSF, I think they would have fired me after a lot of my youth soccer work, and they certainly wouldn't have let me write a book called "Why the U.S. Men Will Never Win the World Cup." 

    I'll explain my comment ... 

    Everyone with whom I've ever talked, including people close to the WNT, has either denied that the women have asked for the same pay structure as the men or refused to comment. I've sought clarification on the PA statement and not yet received it. But at this point, players don't want to go without their salaries or benefits, and understandably so. 

    Maybe she's referring to specific instances. Because you're famiiar with my work, you know I've pointed out that the pay for one friendly match against a similar opponent with the same result is not the same, even taking salary into account. 

    The "lower compensation in every category" part of the statement is simply false. A lot of categories, yes. Some categories, absolutely not -- for one thing, the women's CBA has an escalator clause guaranteeing that the per diem will rise to match whatever's in the next men's CBA. And some categories simply aren't apples to apples. 

    I posted the current numbers (aside from per diem) here: 

    That's the opposite of "censoring the news," isn't it?

  7. Beau Dure replied, July 30, 2019 at 7:18 a.m.

    To clarify a bit more ... 

    "Same compensation structure" and "every category" are statements that can't quite be applied across the board. The situations are different. Men play a lot of qualifiers. Women play a lot of friendlies. 

    How you calculate "equal pay" given those variables is difficult. I've given it a shot. I ran a scenario in which the women won a World Cup and the men made it to the quarterfinals, changed a bunch of the numbers and wound up with the women making nearly $10m more than the men. (Per player, the women made even more because fewer women play for the national team.) 

    Is that enough? That's not for me to say. The point of the exercise was to see what's possible.

  8. Bob Ashpole replied, July 30, 2019 at 12:30 p.m.

    Beau, in contract negotiations, litigation, and especially mediation, there are generally restrictions on discussing matters with the press. In those circumstances whether someone says "no comment" or answers a reporter's questions is more likely a reflection of the talker's ethics than anything else.

  9. Beau Dure replied, July 30, 2019 at 4:06 p.m.

    Bob, I said the same thing, and that was one of many points I made in response to an unfair accusation.

  10. Ben Myers, July 29, 2019 at 8:15 p.m.

    This comparision by USSF is self-serving because it does not take into account the salaries and benefits paid to USMNT players by the professional teams they play on.  So now, how about another comparison in which the USSF pays NWSL salaries and benefits.  Wouldn't this be apples v apples, USWNT v  USMNT national team-only?

  11. Beau Dure replied, July 29, 2019 at 8:47 p.m.

    Still no. U.S. men don't get salaries; women do. U.S. men play mostly qualifiers and other official competitions; women play mostly friendlies. 

    None of which means the women are necessarily overpaid or underpaid. It's just a lot more complicated -- and actually more complicated than USSF argues here.

  12. Bob Ashpole replied, July 30, 2019 at 2:41 a.m.

    Beau the $100,000 salaries are a guarenteed minimum annual amount of income. The rates still matter.

  13. Seth Vieux replied, July 30, 2019 at 5:39 p.m.

    Why should USSF have any responsibility at all for MLS salaries? They DO NOT PAY THEM. They do however cover the USWNT player's NWSL salaries, which I'd say is hugely responsibe for NWSL's viability as a league (especially getting it up and going). USSF footing the bill for ALL of the top US women's players in NWSL allows their clubs to use more of their money to sign the best non USWNT players greatly improving the on-field product and definitely contributing to making and keeping the league financially afloat.  Are they supposed to also have to match MLS salaries for the best US men?? Want to compare the revenue generated by MLS vs NWSL??? Of course the best MLS players make far more than the best NWSL players! Why is that any concern at all to USSF? Should MLS have to pay their players equally with NFL, MLB, or NBA players as well? 

  14. James Madison, July 29, 2019 at 8:53 p.m.

    The report doesnn't say what the per game compensation is for the women vs. the per game compensation for the men, having in mind that the women are paid for playing NWSL games in addition to international games.  Is that relevant?  I suggest it is.

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, July 30, 2019 at 2:39 a.m.

    For the pay part of the claims, the "establishment" is what determines the scope of the comparison. I would not include NWSL and MSL in the establishment. Revenues don't matter even if paid on a commission basis, because then the commission rate is what matters.  

  16. Robert Robertson, July 29, 2019 at 9:26 p.m.

    The men’s salaries for playing in the league whether the MLS or other leagues was not counted. US Soccers spending on promoting the MLS and lower league either directly or indirectly is not counted as well. Male players playing for the national team make massively more $ if that is taken into consideration. 

  17. Peter Bechtold replied, July 29, 2019 at 10:06 p.m.

    Remember the issue: the WNT players filed a lawsuit of gender discrimination agdainst USSF, period. They did not sue FIFA, or MLS, or NWSL. USSF has replied in public now.

  18. Robert Robertson, July 29, 2019 at 9:26 p.m.

    The men’s salaries for playing in the league whether the MLS or other leagues was not counted. US Soccers spending on promoting the MLS and lower league either directly or indirectly is not counted as well. Male players playing for the national team make massively more $ if that is taken into consideration. 

  19. beautiful game, July 29, 2019 at 10:15 p.m.

    USSF makes a poor argument as it always does no matter what the issue at hand.

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, July 30, 2019 at 2:43 a.m.

    The "argument" is just for public sympathy. It isn't a legal argument.

  21. Seth Vieux replied, July 30, 2019 at 5:40 p.m.

    I'd say it's an extremely legitimate argument.

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, July 30, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.

    Seth, aggregates are irrelevant to an Equal Pay Act case. So are revenues. The pay rate for each individual woman is compared separately to what men are paid that perform the same job in the same establishment. If some other women is paid the same as men, it not relevant except to that specific women's case. That will generally be a set dollar amount per unit of work or unit of time. There will typically be performance bonuses as well.

    The key issue is to determine the establishment. The rest is relatively simple. Most employers have detailed pay records. 

    If a person establishes that she was paid a lower rate, then the employer has a chance to justify the higher rate paid to the men. Financial reasons are not a defense. Saying "men deserve higher pay" won't work either. I expect most employers try to defend by saying the men are performing a different job or working in a different establishment. 

  23. Stephan Fatschel, July 30, 2019 at 7:36 p.m.

    Good stuff Beau, keep the analysis coming. Don't worry about the likes of BA.

  24. Timothy Stanton, August 4, 2019 at 3:07 p.m.

    Beau, so many conflate equal pay for identical pay. Well done at presenting specifics. You will get skewered for not simply making emotional arguments in support. 

  25. James Rose, August 10, 2019 at 1:53 a.m.

    Men’s Pay Base - $5K/game

    Avg - $70,250

    Women’s Pay Base - $3.6/game

    Avg - $46,200

    Men’s World Cup Wins- None

    Olympics - None


    Women’s World Cup Wins - 4x in 1991, 1999, 2015, 2019

    Olympic gold - 4x in 1996, 2004, 2008, 2012



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