After six years of litigation and negotiation, the US Soccer Federation reached an agreement with the teams’ unions to pay both their women and men’s teams equally, the first national governing body in the sport to do so.
Before the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) were solidified, the women’s soccer team was woefully underpaid – despite having won four World Cups. During the 2019 World Cup, for instance, the US women’s team received a bonus of $110,000 for winning the tournament. Had the men’s team won, they would have been awarded $407,000.
The US federation’s pay scale for bonuses was previously modeled on FIFA’s prize money scale. FIFA paid the US women’s team $4 million dollars for becoming the 2019 champions. Conversely, the US men’s team in 2018, had they qualified and exited in the first round, would have gained $8 million, and during the 2019 World Cup, the men’s team from France garnered $38 million for becoming champions.
The CBA for the women’s team technically expired in March of this year, but the momentum of negotiations has been ramping up since the women’s team slapped the federation with a gender discimination lawsuit in 2019, leading to a settlement agreement. The settlement, which paid out $24 million in damages (about one-third of what the women’s team demanded), was contingent on establishing new CBAs to guarantee equal pay between the teams. The lawsuit was settled in February and announced earlier this month, and the new agreements will last until 2028.
The consecutive successes of the national women’s team has inspired more women to become professional soccer athletes. Among the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) prolific players is Arizona native Ashley Hatch. Originally from Gilbert, AZ, Hatch is on the US women’s team roster and boasts a list of achievements, including becoming the NWSL’s Gold Boot winner in 2021 as the top goal scorer in the league and scoring the third-fastest goal in US Women’s National Team (USWNT) history just 24 seconds after kickoff against Australia.
Hatch and other women athletes are part of a long legacy of fighters for equal opportunity. Inspired by the USWNT’s victory during the 1999 World Cup and provided the opportunity to compete in college thanks to Title IX, Courtney Thomsen played soccer at the University of Arizona from 2001 to 2004 before changing careers as a soccer coach and eventually becoming Midland University’s Director of Athletics in July of 2021, the first female AD in the university’s 139-year history.
Thomsen recalls struggling to be recognized in her own field. “As a young female coach,” she said. “I felt a little outnumbered, feeling like I wasn’t trusted to coach the older, higher-level teams. It took me a while to gain that credibility that I was capable of coaching those teams, but they must have seen something in me because I eventually earned a leadership role in the club.” She thanks Title IX, which sought to end gender discriminatory practices in federally funded schools, for giving her the opportunity, stating, “Without Title IX, I couldn’t have dreamed of playing in college, having a coaching career, or becoming an athletic director.” As the only female athletic director among 12 universities in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, Thomsen asserts, “As I have moved into administration, I strive to make sure that everyone is given equal opportunities to be successful. That doesn’t just go for women’s sports; we want every athlete to perform at their best.”
From Thomsen to Hatch and many others, women in sports across the country have been pioneering the way towards equity. Perhaps other governing bodies, like FIFA, will soon follow in the direction of the US Soccer Federation.