The U.S. women’s national soccer team is the defending world champion heading into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in France on Friday. They are expected to win, although France and Germany may have other ideas during the course of the competition, which runs from June 7 through early July.
The U.S. women’s national team is a mix of new players and returning stars like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Julie Ertz, all determined to keep the title in the United States. In addition to fame and glory, they are probably looking forward to bringing home some of the competition’s prize money, too, as this year boasts the largest pool in Women’s World Cup history.
Soccer’s governing body, FIFA, upped the prize money in the hopes of deflecting criticism about a gender pay gap between the men’s and women’s tournaments. While they doubled the payout for the winning teams—this year’s champs will take home $4 million, twice as much as the U.S. women’s national team earned for winning in 2015—the total prize pool is still a fraction of that of the men’s World Cup.
Specifically, the prize money for this year’s women’s World Cup is $30 million across all 24 teams, double the $15 million it was in 2015, but still a sliver (7.5%) of the $400 million in prize money for the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia. And the total prize money for the men’s teams playing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will rise to $440 million. According to the Australian players’ union, at this rate, it will take until 2039 for pay to become equal.
Of course, it’s not just FIFA that pays women less than men. In the WNBA, players’ median salaries are $71,635, while NBA players earn a minimum salary of $582,180. The gender pay gap is spread across nearly every category of work, with white women being paid 81 cents for every dollar that a man makes (it’s even less for women of color). Currently, U.S. Soccer is being sued in a class action suit signed on to by the women’s national team for gender discrimination. According to the lawsuit, between 2013 and 2016, women’s national-team players earned a maximum of $4,950 per friendly, non-tournament game that they won, while men’s national-team players earned an average of $13,166 for the same thing. While a 2017 agreement bumped up the women’s pay, it’s still far from equal.
Now, FIFA is also under fire for pay disparity. The Australian women’s national team launched an awareness campaign under the tagline, “Our goal is now,” and with the hashtag #WorldCupEquality and demanded that FIFA double the prize purse from $30 million to $57 million immediately, and threatened potential legal action. Now, under pressure from players and fans, FIFA has promised to negotiate increased prize money for women’s national soccer teams following the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
While FIFA and U.S. Soccer have pointed to the disparity in revenue between the men’s and women’s teams, not everyone appears to be swayed by the argument. Luckily, top players in the U.S. are able to at least earning a living and thanks to Luna Bar, which donated $718,750, each member of the U.S. women’s national team will receive the same bonus awarded to their male counterparts for earning a spot on the World Cup roster ($31,250 per player). And Visa signed on to sponsor the U.S. team, too, through the SheBelieves Cup, grassroots development and marketing efforts. While those efforts are laudable, equal pay shouldn’t be due to Visa and Luna Bars and a lawsuit. The governing bodies should have kept the playing field level the whole time.
Still, each step toward equal pay is one step closer to proving to the next generation of young female players that they are valued just as much as their male counterparts.