Sunday night's triumphant FIFA Women's World Cup win by the U.S. team drew more than 20 million viewers, garnering the highest-ever TV ratings for a soccer game shown on a single network. Which certainly makes sense — in the weeks leading up to this final game, U.S. sports fans have been obsessed with women's soccer to a degree not seen stateside since the historic 1999 U.S. Women's World Cup win — with everyone from average fans to comedian and feminist icon Amy Poehler getting in on the women's soccer love and obsessing over players like Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach. The U.S. women's team's win is great news, of course — but the remarkably low salaries of female soccer players have become something of a scandal throughout this World Cup season. The discussion of inequalities in pay have led many sports fans to wonder: how much are FIFA players like Alex Morgan worth? And how do her earnings — and those of her teammates – compare to her male peers?
Exactly how little do female soccer players make compared to male players? A great example can be found in the prize for the 24th annual FIFA Women's World Cup, which offers $2 million to the winning team. That sum is nowhere near the $35 million that male FIFA champions Germany brought home — or even the $8 million per team that the average male team that failed to make it to the finals received. FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke compounded the insult by calling the issue of equitable prize money "not even a question I will answer because it is nonsense."
And as Alicia Lorene Johnson noted on Bustle, the average National Women's Soccer League player makes between $6,000 and $30,000, and the low salaries offered to female soccer players are "a serious deterrent to players starting, and staying, in the game." First division female soccer players are estimated to make a shocking 98.6 percent less than their male peers playing in professional leagues.
Though the stars of the sport certainly earn more than the rookies being asked to make do on $6,000 a year, does their earning power come anywhere near to approaching that of male soccer players? While male soccer stars like Cristiano Ronaldo are estimated to have a net worth of around $43.5 million, not a single female player made it on to Forbes' list of best-paid soccer stars — and as you can see below, even with endorsements included, the women who won the World Cup earn only a small percentage of what men do.
1. Alex Morgan: Anywhere From $450,000 To $3,000,000
Forward Morgan plays with the Portland Thorns, and has rapidly become one of the stars of the NWSL. Morgan's rise to prominence has reportedly brought her the highest salary in women's soccer: some reports have her earning $180,000 annually from her salary alone. Morgan supposedly brings home anywhere from $450,000 to $3 million total each year, suggesting that the rest of her money comes from endorsements and sponsorships, including a high profile deal with Coca-Cola.
2. Carli Lloyd: $70,000
Midfielder and Golden Ball winner Lloyd — who captured the world's attention by making three of the U.S. team's four goals within the first sixteen minutes of game play against Japan, as well as scoring winning goals on China and Germany in the finals — is estimated to earn around $70,000 per year in salary and endorsements.
3. Sydneyy Leroux: $60,000 To $92,500
Forward Leroux plays for the Western New York Flash, a NWSL team, and scored a game-winning goal against Norway during the 2012 Olympics, helping the U.S. team win the gold medal. She is thought to earn around $60,000 to $92,500 annually, possibly including endorsements and sponsorships.
4. Abby Wambach: $190,000 To $300,000
Forward Wambach — who has won three Olympic gold medals, and holds the international record from most goals — has consistently topped lists for highest-paid female soccer players, with estimated annual earnings of $190,000 to $300,000.
5. Hope Solo: $22,000 To $65,000
Hard to believe, but it's true. Goalkeeper Solo — who won the Golden Gloves award for best goalie at the World Cup — usually plays for NWSL team the Seattle Reign, where she's estimated to earn a salary somewhere between $22,000 to $65,000 annually. Solo is believed to bring in significant additional money each year through her endorsement deals, which in the past have included companies like Gatorade.
What's clear is that despite active fan interest, female soccer players — even the game's brightest stars — are getting the short end of the financial stick. Traditionally, the pay disparity would be waved off as related to differences in viewership levels — but considering the ratings bonanza that the final game delivered, that argument no longer seems to hold much water. So what actually gives? We can't say for sure — but the outdated attitudes of organizations like FIFA aren't helping. As defender Megan Rapinoe told the Guardian (UK), "I think the people with the money just need to realize there is money to be made in our game." (Coincidentally, American Rapinoe, who now plays for the Seattle Reign, chose to spend 2013 playing for a French professional team rather than the NWSL, where she earned $14,000 a month).
While figures like fan engagement can sometimes be hard to pin down, this year's levels of fan engagement are clear as day. So when will FIFA begin offering female players money commensurate with that level of interest? Female soccer stars devote their lives to honing their craft just as much as male players do, and are just as beloved by their fans — so why should they end up shortchanged?
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