‘One Nation. One Team.’ has been a phrase around the USMNT for years. Finally, with the end of the USWNT’s lawsuit and collective bargaining agreement dispute with U.S. Soccer Federation, a new CBA was signed — for both teams — months before the 2022 men’s World Cup. In May, it was announced that U.S. Soccer would become "the first Federation in the world to equalize FIFA World Cup prize money."
Needing a win versus Iran, the USMNT got a goal from Christian Pulisic in the first half then hung on for the 1-0 win to advance to the next round and secure a lump of FIFA bucks for both teams. For the first time ever, ‘one nation, one team,’ and, finally, one pot of money too.
Under the new agreement, for this year’s World Cup and the women’s World Cup in 2023, U.S. Soccer Federation will receive 10% of whatever prize money earned, while the rest will be thrown into a pot and divided among the men’s and women’s teams equally. This means that for the first time ever, the teams have a lot more reasons other than patriotism to cheer each other on.
The new CBA is but a step on a path that requires global change, from federations but also from FIFA (the governing body which organizes World Cups). As Lindsay Gibbs wrote in her newsletter, Power Plays, if the USMNT were to lose in Saturday’s round of 16 match versus Netherlands, the USWNT would still earn more from that tournament than they did for winning back-to-back World Cups in 2015 & 2019.
If the people who run FIFA were capable of shame, that being a true fact would give them that cold hollow feeling that comes when caught with a hand in the cookie jar. Instead, total prize money for the 2022 men’s World Cup is $410 million higher than the total prize money in the 2019 women’s World Cup. While the figure for the 2023 World Cup is expected to be a significant increase, it’s not expected to reach the stratosphere of the men’s.
Equal pay is necessary to correct a wrong, but it’s still not entirely fair. In the United States, equal pay should be viewed as more of a benefit to the men’s team, who haven’t seen a fraction of the success as the women’s team. However, since men’s sports are treated as the default, monies earned are not equal to talent showcased or entertainment provided.
In the 2019 women’s World Cup, the 24-team tournament topped 1 billion viewers throughout the competition. In the 2018 men’s World Cup, the 32-team tournament hit 3.5-billion. While the variance is clear, there’s also the truth that federations around the world do not fund their women’s teams to the extent of their men’s – evidenced by the difference in number of teams participating in the final tournament.
There’s also the truth that women’s football has been held back for decades. The USWNT didn’t participate as a full international team until 1985. Canada, who won the Olympics, played their first international competition in 1986. In England, women’s football was banned from 1921-1971. In contrast, the first iteration of the men’s World Cup was held in 1930.
However, the appetite is there and women’s soccer has been one of the fastest growing sports across the globe, and there’s a lot to make up for. It’s on FIFA, who should be a leader in the promotion of all football worldwide, to follow suit with federations who have agreed equal pay between their men’s and women’s teams. Until then, there’s another reason to cheer for the USMNT to continue their streak this World Cup – the women’s team deserves it.