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US Women’s Soccer Team Fights On and Off the Field for Equal Pay

Abby Regan ’22
On July 7, 2019 the US Women’s National Soccer team (USWNT) took home their second consecutive and fourth overall FIFA Women’s World Cup win.
As the number one ranked team in the world, they were competing for more than just the champion title in this World Cup: they were also fighting for a paycheck equal to that of the US men’s team. The USWNT has been fighting the US Soccer Federation [USSF] in the past years because their pay is substantially less than that of the men’s team. The women’s team used this World Cup to make themselves heard and generate support. After winning the final game against the Netherlands, fans in the stadium chanted “Equal pay!” in solidarity with the USWNT. Girls Varsity Soccer captain, Anna Simon ’20 commented, “I think that every time they [USWNT] celebrated a goal, even in the 13-0 game, they were celebrating more than just a goal. They were celebrating being one step closer to equal pay and an international stage. Every goal they scored was sort of proof that they deserved more.”

In March, they filed a lawsuit against US soccer because of unequal pay. It stated: “A comparison of the WNT [Women’s National Team] and MNT [Men’s National Team] pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all twenty friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face.” While some say it isn’t fair to make comparisons between the compensation of the two teams, by game standards the women’s team is much more successful than the men’s team. The women are now four-time World Cup champions as well as four-time Olympic champions while the men have never won either tournament. From 2016 to 2018, women’s games brought in almost $10 million more in revenue than the men’s games. Felipe Perez ’22 commented, “Despite being paid less, the US women’s team continues to win international titles, and have made a name for themselves as a force to be reckoned with in their league.”

The US soccer federation has claimed that there is no pay gap. They even hired two lobbyists to convince the judge that the USWNT is wrong. Their court date is set for May 5, 2020, just weeks before the summer Olympics. In the
meantime they hope to settle it without a trial, but their last mediation resulted in angry statements from both US soccer and the women’s team. Boys Varsity Soccer Coach, Joe Addison shared that he hopes it will be resolved, for the sake of soccer in the US. “The USSF will have a serious problem if it does not settle the current lawsuit with the USWNT and/or the team refuses to sign the next collective bargaining agreement. That is the power of winning–every soccer fan in this country wants to see more of the USWNT and will rightfully blame the USSF if players go on strike for equal pay,” he said.

The USWNT’s lawsuit covered discriminatory problems other than pay gap, such as working conditions, the way they travel to games and the hotels they stay in. Hopkins Girls Soccer Coach Becky Harper said, “Pay, unfortunately is not the only issue. It comes down to resources. Major teams, world- wide, at their start were solely for men. That has changed rapidly in the last decade or so with clubs like Barcelona, Paris St. Germain, and other football behemoths establishing women’s teams as well. Yet, the funding and resources allocated are not equal. The owners of these clubs are less willing to invest in the women’s game, especially in the US. My hope is thatmore and more people will start  realizing the untapped potential of the women’s game; we have just grazed the surface.”
Throughout their season, the US women’s soccer players are not just training and competing in games, they are also taking a stand for women’s rights and inspiring younger girls and soccer players to support what they believe in. Anishi Kalaria ’22 shared, “I believe that as younger players grow, they will not be willing to accept the gap in pay between men and women players. The fight for equal pay will affect them in a way that will make them feel stronger when they are older or professional athletes.”
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