These Numbers Drive Home Just How Ridiculous The US Soccer Gender Pay Gap Is

by Caroline Burke
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) has been kicking butt in the 2019 World Cup so far — but its other battle is off the field. All 28 members of the women's team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, alleging gender discrimination regarding wages, working conditions, and general investment in the teams. And for anyone wondering just how extreme the U.S. soccer gender pay gap really is, you might be in for a surprise.

In May, the U.S. Soccer Federation denied the gender discrimination allegations outlined in the lawsuit. According to the The Wall Street Journal, it wrote that any pay discrepancies were “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.” However, The Wall Street Journal later published an article revealing the women's team has actually been generating more revenue than the men's team. The federation also claimed the men's and women's team have “different obligations, are compensated in fundamentally different ways, and enjoy different benefits; thus, USWNT players have no male ‘counterparts’ who play for the USMNT," the outlet reported.

The USWNT is pushing for their fourth World Cup victory in the coming weeks. They won the international tournament (which takes place every four years) in 1991, 1999, and 2015, as The Washington Post notes. In contrast, the men's team hasn't reached a World Cup Final, yet they out-earn women players by a substantial margin.

If you're not already convinced of how flat-out confusing the current financial situation is for men's and women's U.S. soccer players, consider these nine statistics that really lay out the wage gap between the two teams:

The Women's Team Earns More Revenue Than The Men's Team Now

Let's get one thing straight immediately: Some people may think that the USMNT has higher salaries because they generate more revenue, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the USWNT generated $50.8 million in ticket sales from 2016-2018, while the USMNT generated $49.9 million. Prior to 2016, the men's team had drawn in more money, the publication reports. Now, the women's team is out-earning the men's team in ticket sales.

Women Players Make Less Per Game Than Men Players

According to the USWNT lawsuit, the women on the national team make approximately $8,200 less per game over an average calendar year than their male counterparts. Because the men's and the women's teams have different collective bargaining agreements, the men are eligible for much higher game bonuses. In contrast, the women have guaranteed salaries (the men's salaries aren't guaranteed) as well as smaller game bonuses.

USWNT Isn't The Highest Earning Women's Soccer Team Internationally

The USWNT was only the fourth-highest earning women's soccer team in the world in 2017, despite having won the 2015 World Cup. According Forbes and Statista, the total annual salary for all women on the U.S. team in 2017 was $5.4 million. By comparison, D1 Féminine (France) earned a cumulative $13.6 million, Frauen Bundesliga (Germany) earned a cumulative $12.2 million, and the FA Women's Super League (England) earned a cumulative $5.5 million.

The Women Play More Games, On Average

Because of their consistent success from 2015 to 2018, the USWNT played, on average, 22 games per year, while the USMNT played, on average, 17 games a year, according to the lawsuit. Their max wage per game during those years was $4,950, while men players' max wage per game was $13,166, according to CNBC.

World Cup Bonuses Are Wildly Different, Regardless Of Results

According to SB Nation, the men's team was paid a cumulative bonus of $5.4 million for making it to the top 16 in the 2014 World Cup. In contrast, the USWNT actually won its World Cup in 2015, and received a cumulative bonus of $1.7 million.

The USMNT Ran A Spending Deficit In 2017

According to a budget report from the U.S. Soccer Federation, the USWNT brought in over $17 million in revenue in 2017, which included a $5 million surplus for the fiscal year (meaning they earned $5 million more than the federation put into their costs.) In contrast, the USMNT ran a deficit of $1 million.

Even The Women's Coaches Earn Less

Jill Ellis is the head coach for the USWNT, and according to Time, she earned $318,533 in total compensation in 2018. Comparatively, Jürgen Klinsmann, the USMNT coach who was fired in 2016, received a settlement of $3.35 million from the U.S. Soccer Federation following his termination. Additionally, Bruce Arena, the USMNT coach who replaced Klinsmann and oversaw the team when they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, earned $1.27 million in 2018.

The publication further reports that Ellis is the 20th-highest paid employee at U.S. Soccer, and that she earned less than the Under-20 men's coach.

The Top-Paid Men & Women Players Are Paid Similarly

According to The New York Times, the top-paid woman on the USWNT from 2008 to 2015 made about $1.2 million, cumulatively, and the top-paid man made about $1.4 million in that same amount of time. However, the numbers continue to diverge as you move down the list. The publication reports that the 25th-highest-paid woman earned $341,000 over those same years, while the 25th-highest-paid man earned $580,000.

Even The Per Diem Is Different

Per The New York Times, men and women don't receive the same per diem while traveling. Women receive $60 a day, while men receive $75 a day. Similarly, women receive $3,000 for a given U.S. Soccer sponsor appearance, while men receive $3,750.

The next USWNT game will be on Friday, June 28, against France. You can support the women in their goal to win the World Cup by watching their game, and all subsequent games. You can also back them in their efforts to close the gender wage gap by contacting your lawmakers and asking them to support Sen. Dianne Feinstein's and others' open letter to U.S. Soccer, demanding equal pay for both national teams.