As I sat in the stands just moments after the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) won the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final, I could feel the momentum of the equal
pay movement and the allegiance of the fans. The chants of “equal pay!” reverberated and rolled through the streets of Lyon, France. This was more than just a powerful moment: this was a movement that signified a demand for justice — a relentless fight that would come to last almost three years for the women’s soccer team.
On Feb. 22, 2022, the USWNT settled their equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer
Federation (USSF) for $24 million. The settlement included a lump sum payment of $22 million for the players, as well as an additional $2 million to be put into an account to support the players in their post-career aspirations. Although this settlement is not the $66.7 million in back pay that the players initially asked for, it still marks a significant victory for the USWNT. “There’s no other way to look at it than just a monumental win for women’s sports and women’s soccer, in particular,” said USWNT midfielder and equal pay champion Megan Rapinoe. This victory comes after a long legal battle full of many appeals and disheartening verdicts.
Twenty-eight national team players first filed the lawsuit in March 2019, on International Women’s Day, with allegations of institutionalized gender discrimination. The lawsuit focused
on equal pay and working conditions, specifically highlighting the discrepancy in bonus structures within the men’s and women’s contracts. A male soccer player would earn $67,000 for making a World Cup team whereas a female player would only make $37,000. Each player on the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) would earn a bonus of $9,375 for a win against a team outside of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) top 25 rankings, and $5,000 for a loss. On the other hand, each player on the USWNT would only earn $5,250 for a win against a team outside of the FIFA top eight rankings, and nothing for a loss. Similarly, a men’s soccer player would make $407,608 for a World Cup win, whereas a women’s soccer player would only make $110,000.
After this long fight that began in early 2019, the USSF has now committed to providing an equal pay rate for the men’s and women’s teams in all future friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup. This is definitely a step in the right direction and a monumental victory not only for the USWNT but for women everywhere demanding equality. However, there is still much work to be done in properly repairing the relationships between the USWNT players and the USSF after this drawn out legal battle — the fight for equality is far from over. The next organization to target for equal pay is FIFA, which offers unequal prize money for the World Cups. This fight will be similarly challenging.
Nonetheless, great strides have been made toward equality in women’s sports, leaving us
all optimistic for the future generations of women athletes. “To be at this point in the life of my
career, and to be able to know the next generation will be in such a better place than we were
when we started, is incredible. We always had that belief in ourselves,” said Rapinoe.