The Gendered Wage Gap: U.S. Soccer Edition

Antara Murshed
Staff Writer

Five top players from the U.S. women’s national soccer team have recently filed a wage discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The filing is based on figures from the United States Soccer Federation 2015 financial report, which shows that the men’s team makes three times the women’s team, despite the women’s team generating $20 million more revenue than the men’s team. The EEOC will be conducting an investigation to determine if these findings are enough to warrant compensation for the U.S. women’s team.

It is fairly clear that the U.S. women’s national soccer team is by far the more successful and popular team, compared to the U.S. men’s national soccer team. At the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. won gold, with a bold score of 5-2 against Japan. Meanwhile, the U.S. men’s national team is usually lucky to break into the round of 16, which was as far as they managed to make it at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. However, it was the women’s team which received a total of $2 million after winning the Women’s World Cup while the men’s team received a total of $9 million for only making it halfway through the competition.

Findings from the ongoing EEOC investigation show that the women on the U.S. national team would earn a salary of $99,000 each if they won (not merely participate in, but win) 20 friendlies. A member of the men’s team would earn $263,320 for doing the same exact thing and still receive $100,000 if the player managed to lose every single game. Men can receive any amount between $5,000 and $17,625 for every game played after 20. Members of the women’s team do not get paid anything for playing more than 20 games.

The glaring pay gap between the men and women’s national soccer teams only becomes more offensive knowing that the women’s team is so much more tremendously successful than the men’s team. The men’s Olympic soccer team has been participating in the games since 1904 and with their highest ranking being fourth place at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The women’s national team has won four gold medals in the last five Summer Olympic games. Women’s soccer only became an event at the Summer games as recently as 1996. The women’s team has managed to outperform the men’s team in the last twenty years, despite the men’s team having a head start of just under a century.

Let’s take a moment to consider the larger underlying forces that shape the completely absurd wage gap between the U.S. women’s national soccer team and the U.S. men’s national soccer team. If anyone knows anything about the women’s team, their status as world champions and as the superior team is clear. Why are male athletes compensated so much more than women athletes? Who or what continues to allow this to happen? The argument that women’s sports make less revenue specifically in the case of international soccer is faulty, as the women’s team brought in 20 million more dollars than the men’s team did. American men clearly don’t play soccer better than American women do, judging by the stats listed from the last century. The women’s team is successful and fascinating, yet as a lifelong soccer fan, I almost never hear about their feats and accomplishments in mainstream sports news unless I go out of my way to Google “women’s soccer.” Perceptions of women’s soccer being less interesting must be rooted in misconception and misogyny because there doesn’t seem to be any other way of reconciling the team’s unmistakable success and their completely unequal treatment from the United States Soccer Federation.

Women’s national team stars Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd, and Alex Morgan are the five women choosing to represent the U.S. women’s national team in the suit. A lawsuit like this appearing on the eve of the 2016 Summer Olympics, where the women’s team has qualified to compete in has caught the attention of the United States Soccer Federation and negotiations are in progress.

Photo courtesy of Twitter

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