A pay raise for the U.S. men?

Amid the talk of "equal pay" for the women’s national team is an inconvenient truth ...

The men are overdue for a raise.

No, not because they’ve been performing so well. They’re overdue because the collective bargaining agreement they signed in 2011 expired at the end of 2018. They’re currently playing on an expired contract.

Politically, of course, it would be a terrible time to give the men a raise. Imagine the headlines: "U.S. Soccer Expands Gap Between Men and Women!" "It’s Opposite Day in Soccer!" (OK, that one would have poor SEO.) "I’ve Never Paid Attention to Soccer, And I Didn’t Know the Men’s CBA Had Expired, And I Don’t Realize USA-Mexico Games Basically Print Money, But I Can Definitively Say That This Is Ridiculous!"

Let’s suppose U.S. Soccer and the women’s team had settled the women’s lawsuit and evened out everything that can be evened out, such as pay for friendlies and certain roster bonuses. Great. But then the men would still be negotiating for a raise that would resuscitate the problem.

So you would hope that this issue is being taken into consideration as U.S. Soccer tries to settle that suit and reach a new deal with the men’s team.

Alas, no. At least, no one’s saying so, even when asked. Win-win-win solutions don’t appear to be on the table. The men are supportive, the women are happy that the men are supportive, and yet the elephant in the room has hit a growth spurt.

In a best-case scenario, the women would seeking a bit more than the men currently get (again, for anything that can be compared apples-to-apples, or at least apples-to-pears) so the men can get a raise that would even things out. But that’s a difficult thing to do when you’re negotiating to settle a lawsuit rather than re-negotiating a relatively recent CBA.

None of which should stop us from playing “What If?”

The latest of my hypothetical scenarios applied to a six-year set of results (2013-18) uses the following parameters:

Friendlies and World Cup roster bonuses: A 10% raise for the men, with the women’s pay increased to match. (The women get either a game bonus or a salary, so I adjust the win/draw/loss bonuses so the women’s total would match the men’s.)

World Cup qualifying bonuses: A 10% raise for the men. That’s split among more than 50 players in the men’s pool and 20 players for the women’s pool, so for each individual woman, I took the rough midpoint of the men’s bonuses.

Attendance: Currently equal at $1.50 per home-game ticket. Bumped up to $1.70.

World Cup advancement bonuses: A 10% raise for the men. The women’s calculation here is more complicated. Currently, the combined bonus for a World Cup championship and the Victory Tour is nearly equal to the FIFA prize money. I combined those two into one bigger bonus and doubled it, assuming FIFA will indeed double the prize money. I also shifted some of the bonus money to earlier rounds -- if the U.S. women go all the way, the bonus is still nearly all of the FIFA prize money, but they can now claim a bit of it if they hit some bad luck or a hot team and tumble out in an earlier round.

The final numbers: Overall pay for the men over a six-year span doesn’t really increase that much from the existing CBA -- $34,496,814 to $36,495,652. (Remember -- this six-year span only includes one World Cup, thanks to that game in Couva.) Women’s pay jumps from $36,042,676 to $46,421,400. U.S. Soccer would pay its two senior national teams a total of $82,917,052, or a little more than $13 million a year.

From U.S. Soccer’s perspective, $4 million of that money is a wash -- FIFA gives U.S. Soccer more money, and U.S. Soccer pays the women more money. Simple.

So if we take out that $4 million, the total change in national team compensation, compared to the existing CBAs, would see U.S. Soccer pay out an extra $8,377,562, or $1,396,260 per year.

As long as we’re spending other people’s money, I added a couple of simple variations. Let’s say instead of a maximum World Cup bonus of $7.86 million, the women get a maximum bonus of $10 million. Now U.S. Soccer is looking at increased compensation of $10,517,535, or $1,752,922 per year.

It’s easy to compute the impact of any other bump in the women’s bonus. If it’s $15 million, add another $5 million, or $833,333 per year. Then another $5 million/$833,333 per year if it’s $20 million.

But I went farther than that. Suppose the women got the same money for the World Cup as the men -- with the raise in this scenario, a maximum total of $29,118,110.

The totals:
MNT pay: $36,495,652
WNT pay: $67,679,500
Total pay: $104,175,152
6-year change in USSF payout: $29,635,635
Per-year change in USSF payout: $4,939,272

To put this in perspective: In this winter’s Annual General Meeting, U.S. Soccer presented these numbers (fiscal years end March 31 of the year cited, so we’re already a good ways into FY 2020):

FY 2018 surplus: $14,406,474 (including $18.7 million of late income from the Copa America Centenario, which accounted for nearly all of the $51 million surplus the year before)
FY 2019 projected *deficit*: $12,437,067
FY 2020 budgeted deficit: $11,137,571

Overall revenue isn’t dropping. Many expenses are rising, including the coaching department (mostly coaching education), a capital improvements program, a “digital revamp,” World Cup bid support, and the biggest -- national teams. The corresponding rise in sponsorship revenue might make up for it, but it’s difficult to parse out those numbers. Sponsorship isn’t all about the national teams, anyway -- just count the Nike logos in Development Academy programs.

Over time, that’ll chip away at the federation’s cushion of $160 million and change (again, much of it built on the Copa America Centenario).

There are a lot of hands on that money. On one hand, the idea of giving Jozy Altidore and Alex Morgan a raise while U.S. Soccer’s youth programs fall farther and farther behind (yes, on the women’s side as well) is a little off-putting. On the other hand, it’s still a substantial amount of money, and it should be possible to give the men a small raise, give the women a big raise and still bump up the funding for everything below the senior national team level.

How much? Let’s look at that in the next installment, where we’ll also take a look at how other federations spend their money.

Photo: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

5 comments about "A pay raise for the U.S. men?".
  1. Bob Ashpole, September 3, 2019 at 6:32 p.m.

    The men requested USSF to combine contract negotiations with both national teams. I haven't read whether USSF has responded.

  2. Alfred Randall, September 3, 2019 at 7:48 p.m.

    Couva wasn't the reason MNT didn't go to the 2018 WC. The 0-2 loss to Costa Rica played in New Jersey which is home to the largest contingent of Costa Rican imigrants in the US. Ask the the USSF about that one.

  3. James Madison, September 3, 2019 at 8:14 p.m.

    As I have urged before, I believe the firt priority for the women should be to synch the expiration date of their CBA with that of the men, so they can bargain on an apples-to-apples basis, after adjusting for payments to the women for playing on WNSL teams.

  4. beautiful game, September 5, 2019 at 9:33 p.m.

    USSF needs to implement meanigful incentives in MNT qualifiers and WC competition. But before this happens, USSF has to reinvent itself by changing its current culture of bureaucratic H.S.

  5. beautiful game, September 5, 2019 at 9:36 p.m.

    BTW, 10% raise for Friendlies? Are you kidding me! They haven't earned a raise for Friendlies.

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