On February 22, 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) and the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) players announced an agreement that resolved a pay discrimination lawsuit that has been pending since 2019. The lawsuit alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII because the USWNT players were paid less than their male counterparts, including receiving much smaller performance bonuses despite achieving greater on field success. The lawsuit also alleged the USSF discriminated by creating unequal working conditions, such as making upscale travel arrangements and greater number of support staff and services available to the men’s team.
Under the settlement, a group of several dozen current and former players will share $22 million in payments from USSF. An additional $2 million will go into a fund to assist USWNT players with their “post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls’ soccer,” according to the Federation’s statement. Players will be able to apply for up to $50,000 from the fund. Significantly, U.S. Soccer also agreed to provide “an equal rate of pay going forward for the women’s and men’s national teams in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup.”
Equal pay includes equal World Cup bonuses, which traditionally have been based on the prize money awarded by FIFA. But the USSF does not control those amounts, which differ drastically between the men’s and women’s competitions. A total of $400 million was awarded to men’s teams and $30 million to women’s teams in the most recent World Cup tournaments, with the men’s winner taking home $38 million and the women’s winner, the USNWT, just $4 million. The equal pay settlement, therefore, is contingent on the ratification of new collective bargaining agreements by the U.S. men’s and women’s teams by March 31, 2022. While the teams operate under separate agreements, USSF wants each team to sign essentially the same collective bargaining agreement, which will have a mechanism for equalizing World Cup bonuses.
The portion of the lawsuit alleging unequal working conditions was resolved in a partial settlement that was approved by the court in in April 2021.