U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone says the labor issues that have been hanging over the federation in recent years can't be resolved without settling the differences in the amounts of bonuses paid out for play in the men's and women's World Cup.
“Coming to a resolution on the World Cup prize money will be key to our separate collective bargaining negotiations with the USMNT and USWNT,” Parlow Cone wrote in an open letter released on Friday.
U.S. Soccer's collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association, which represents the men, expired at the end of 2018. The federation and men have been negotiating on the terms of a new agreement. The agreement with the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Players Association expires at the end of the year.
“We see an opportunity to create change,” Parlow Cone said. “We need our men’s and women’s national teams to come together and re-think how we’ve done things in the past. To that end, we have invited the players and both players’ associations to join US Soccer in negotiating a solution together that equalizes World Cup prize money between the USMNT and USWNT.
"Finding a framework that works for everyone will require open and thoughtful conversations and sincere commitment from USMNT and USWNT players to come together. Until FIFA equalizes the prize money that it awards to the men’s and women’s World Cup participants, it is incumbent upon us to collectively find a solution.”
FIFA awarded $400 million in prize money for the federations of the 32 teams at the 2018 men’s World Cup, including $38 million to the French federation for its team's championship in Russia. It awarded $30 million for the 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including $4 million to U.S. Soccer after the Americans won their second straight title.
The high percentages of prize moneys U.S. Soccer has paid out to the men and women and other compensation are such that the New York Times reported that the U.S. men’s and women’s teams are believed to be the two highest-compensated national teams in the world.
Most federations don't pay out all the money it receives from FIFA. The members and staff of the French national team received about $8 million after its 2018 title. The other $30 million went to cover the costs of participating in the tournament and to support regional amateur leagues. Some federations have equalized pay between men and women by offering equal per-game bonuses and per-diem payments and offering equal percentages of the so-called prize money, but they are not equal amounts, far from it.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed to double the women’s prize money to $60 million for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where the field will be increased from 24 to 32 teams. The prize money for the men will be increased from $400 million to $440 million for Qatar 2022, many the amount men's prize money is increased ($40 million) still larger than the amount the women's prize money is increased ($30 million).
The agreement U.S. Soccer has maintained with U.S. women's national team players has included salaries and other benefits to help make up for the fact that they have traditionally been poorly compensated, if they got paid at all, by clubs. (In six of the last 20 years there was no Division I pro women's league in the United States.) Many of the men's national players have multi-million dollar club contracts so whatever agreement they have for playing for the national team generates his a fraction of their income.
“That’s our challenge as a federation, and that’s what the women are fighting for,” Cone said. “We talk about the different structures, and that’s part of the problem — it’s hard to reach equal when they don’t want the exact same thing — but the main challenge is the massive discrepancy in World Cup prize money."