US Soccer’s historic equal pay deal represents a hard-won peace | United States women’s national soccer team

Finally, peace.

Dear peace, certainly. But a peace without which American football would never progress.

The slogan that US Soccer has been trying to get across for many years is “One Nation, One Team”. It’s hard to take to heart when women’s team defenders openly mock the men’s lack of World Cup success and men’s team defenders retaliate with constant reminders that women lose to men’s youth teams.

With new collective bargaining agreements announced Wednesday by US Soccer and the players’ unions, everyone is finally on the same side.

Almost.

The men’s and women’s teams now have fairness across the board in every apples-to-apples comparison and even a few that are closer apples-to-pears – beating the 24th-ranked men’s team on the road is a lot tougher than d You can’t get a home win against the 24th-ranked team in the shallower Women’s National Teams pool, but they will now have identical win bonuses. These are low hanging fruits that could and should have been solved years ago.

These comparisons are easier today because women finally gave up the guaranteed wages that provided stability when professional women’s football was virtually non-existent, but became a legal albatross because women brokered a deal with another structure – not just different salary amounts – than the bonus deal only the men had.

More importantly, each team now directly benefits from the success of the other. Prize money and commercial revenue will be pooled and split between the two teams. An MNT win in the World Cup Round of 16 means more money for the WNT. A WNT World Cup triumph means more money for the MNT. Win-win in the most literal sense.

“We’re going to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders for sure,” Walker Zimmerman, an American men’s defenseman and leader of the team’s players’ association, said during the interview. a conference call with the media.

For example – in the 2022 and 2023 World Cups, the pool of players will receive 90% of any prize money their teams win.

Yes – 90%, with a nine and a zero. And it could irritate some grassroots footballers who already believe too much money is going to players’ beach houses rather than youth development programs, coaches and referees, a belief so fervent that they almost sacked Carlos. Cordeiro as president two months ago, just two years after his tenure of public embarrassment and organizational calamity ended with his resignation.

By way of comparison, the much publicized agreement on equal pay in Norway, which do not pooling and sharing prize money, pays each team 25% of the prize money they win in major tournaments, meaning the amount of dollars paid out to men for a similar result as women is exponentially higher. Australia’s deal, also not “equal” in a sense that would have satisfied American women or their battalion of lawyers, pays on a sliding scale up to 50% but also reserves 5% of “player-generated revenue” for national youth teams.

But big paychecks from American teams are nothing new. Under previous US deals, women received around 100% of the prize money for winning the World Cup, with some paid out as a ‘Victory Tour’ bonus on top of their game fees for Victory Tour games. . The men’s percentage is harder to calculate as it includes bonuses for every group stage point, but a deep run in the World Cup would put the men’s share somewhere in the 60-70% range or a little higher.

The prize money also drops to 80% in the next cycle, which could still be a good payout if Fifa continues to very slowly increase the prize money for the increasingly successful Women’s World Cup. And the payout across the board isn’t exponentially higher than what was in past deals – for example, a friendly win against a highly ranked opponent will net each player $18,000, a slight increase from 17,625. $ of the last male transaction and $12,750 for women. who were not already employed.

So if these deals fall short of budget, will that be enough to appease grassroots organizers?

To recap: Cordeiro quit when a legal filing came to light that was surprisingly insulting to the accomplished women’s team. But state associations and other federation members convinced him to run in a bid to unseat Cindy Cone, the Hall of Famer who had assumed the presidency when Cordeiro was kicked out. Despite warnings from sponsors and fans that restoring Cordeiro to the throne would cause massive damage, the former president received 47.1% of the weighted vote. If the Athletes Council hadn’t recently seen its share cut from 20% to 33.3% by federal law, Cone likely wouldn’t have taken advantage of the good news on Wednesday.

On the eve of the election, US Soccer announced a $24 million settlement with the women’s team. The cynical view was that the timing of the announcement was politically motivated to help Cone, particularly because the deal was still contingent on ABC negotiations which ended up taking two more months. But this agreement could have in fact hurt Cone because, in the minds of many members, it was $24 million that would not go to other programs – national youth teams, foundation grants, coach education, referee development and the like national teams. To give an example: American football has strong seven-a-side football teams for players with cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury, a discipline that once featured in the Paralympic Games and may one day return, and American women have just won the first world championship.

And the federation is no longer swimming in money, à la Scrooge McDuck. American football is running eight-figure deficits these days, carving up a slew of once-powerful assets.

But the budget will be much better without so many bills. The federation no longer has to do damage control on public relations mistakes such as the one that cost Cordeiro his presidency or the fight against “equal pay” in general, which has been largely misunderstood by everyone. , from legislators to experts.

Cone is optimistic that settling such a lengthy labor process — the men have been playing under an expired CBA since 2018, and the women sued the federation in 2019 — will lift the federation’s many boats, competitively and commercial.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but I think it’s a real positive that will help us make the pie bigger,” Cone said on the media call.

Pay equity will never be exact. Under these deals, the women will surely earn significantly more money than the men no matter where they end up in the upcoming World Cups. They receive prize money for the Olympics; men don’t. The women’s schedule, usually focused more on crowd-pleasing home friendlies than European friendlies or tough Central American qualifiers, is easier than the men’s, meaning they’ll rack up more victory bonuses.

But it’s hard to argue that the disparity deserves a complaint. Men will always, by all accounts, be paid quite well compared to their peers. And with their club teams, many of them earn seven-figure salaries while women still struggle to earn six-figure salaries.

“We knew there was a chance to make less money,” Zimmerman said. “But we believe so much in the women’s team and the premise of equal pay, and ultimately that was a big driving force for us.”

This is not the last step forward for American football. But it’s a big one.

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