Trailblazing Labor Contracts End U.S. Women’s Soccer Players’ Equal Pay Lawsuit

May 20, 2022

By Patrick L. Egan & Ryan C. Chapoteau, of Jackson Lewis

The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body for international soccer in the United States, and the unions representing the women’s and men’s national soccer teams, U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association, and the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association have reached a pair of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with identical economic terms. For the first time, equal pay to the players of each team will be provided.

The historic agreements also resolve the long-running equal pay lawsuit women players had brought against USSF. The labor contracts run through 2028.

The key driver in pay disparity between the compensation for the Men’s and Women’s National Teams (USMNT and USWNT, respectively) had been the World Cup prize money received by them from FIFA, the international soccer governing body. The prize money for the men’s World Cup has been about 10 times as large as that of the women’s World Cup. While that disparity, though smaller, will continue, the Men’s and Women’s National Teams and USSF have agreed to pool the prize money received from FIFA for the next two pairs of men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments and divide the players’ share of the pool equally between the players on the two teams. No other country’s soccer federation pools prize money and divides it equally to its men’s and women’s national teams.

USSF will sign separate labor contracts with each union, but the economic terms of each will be the same. These include appearance fees (for participating in a training camp) and game bonuses (for being named to a gameday roster), other prize money, and commercial revenue share. Single game payments can amount to $18,000 for matches, while tournament prize money can reach as much as $24,000 per game. This will ensure that the USMNT and USWNT will both be among the highest paid national teams throughout the world.

USSF has issued a fact sheet providing an overview of the terms reached in both CBAs. Generally, prize money from non-World Cup FIFA tournaments, regional tournaments, and other official tournaments in which both the USWNT and USMNT participate also will be pooled. For the first time, the contracts provide that USSF will share a portion of broadcast, apparel, and sponsorship revenue with the players’ share divided equally between USWNT and USMNT. Ticket revenue and game sellout bonuses also will be equal for the USWNT and USMNT. Further, non-economic conditions are being equalized. Playing surfaces, travel, accommodations, and national team training staffs (allowing for the unique needs of each team) will be the same. Guaranteed salaries and other benefits enjoyed by the USWNT are no longer needed as the various domestic women’s league continue to prosper.

While certain claims from the USWNT lawsuit settled in 2020, these labor negotiations will end litigation that commenced six years ago, which had an impact on sponsorship along with ongoing amassing legal fees. Part of the settlement included a $24 million pool of money that would be paid out upon reaching an agreement on these CBAs that provided the formal terms for equal pay between both teams. Now, the class members can seek a court order to certify the settlement so the payments can be issued to players.

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