This blog post is written by Quinn Mahoney. Quinn is working as a summer clerk this year. He is an Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics Major at Notre Dame with a minor in Actuarial Science. In other words, he knows numbers.
This past week, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (“USWNT”) won their second consecutive World Cup and record fourth overall. They cemented their status as arguably the most dominant and successful soccer team in the world, regardless of gender. Instead of chants of “USA,” the crowd chose to voice their opinion on the controversy surrounding the team, with chants of “Equal Pay” after the victory.
Back in March, (on International Women’s Day, no less) the USWNT filed a Class Action Lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (“USSF”), claiming gender discrimination on the part of their governing body. They believe they are being paid less than the men, despite their overwhelming success, because they are women. The USSF claims it’s purely based on revenue differences. So, who is right? Let’s take a dive into this situation. Please note that the analysis below does not consider the prize money for the World Cup, as that is a FIFA issue, and separate from the USSF lawsuit.
First off, the US women’s and men’s soccer teams are paid differently. The women have a guaranteed base salary that they earn regardless of results, plus bonuses for performance. The men have a “pay for play” system: they only get paid if they suit up, and the amount of money they receive for each game depends on the result. Under the women’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement which went into place in 2017, the women receive a base salary of $100,000 per year. They receive a $1,350 bonus if they win a friendly. The men receive $5,000 if they lose a game and can earn up to $17,625 if they beat a Top 10 opponent (or Mexico). Both teams are required to play in 20 international friendlies in a certain cycle. The Fact Checker for the Washington Post calculated that if both teams were to play all 20 matches, the women would likely make about 89% of what the men would. Under the previous CBA, the women would earn only 38% of what the men earn for the typical 20 game scenario (the women had a $72,000 base salary before).
As you can see, things have improved for the women. However, the USSF claimed that the differences in compensation were based on differences in aggregate revenue between the two teams. So basically, they claim that they pay the women less because they bring in less money. But that isn’t entirely true. According to an NPR article, from 2016 to 2018, the women brought in $50.8 Million in game revenue, while the men brought in $49.9 Million. So the women bring in more revenue, and should be paid equally, if not more than the men, right? Actually, game revenue doesn’t tell the whole story. Revenue from games only makes up approximately a quarter of the USSF’s revenue. Sponsorships make up about one half of the total revenue. The problem is, it is not clear which team brings in more money in terms of sponsorships. Documents reviewed by the Washington Post Fact Checker don’t clearly show which teams bring in more money in sponsorships, or how that money is allocated.
In conclusion, this may seem like a cut and dry issue, but in reality, it’s far from it. Yes, the women are much more successful than the men, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they bring in the same amount of money or more. If compensation is based on revenue, and if the women can show they bring in the same amount (or more) as the men, they at least deserve equal pay. However, unless we know who the real cash cow is for the USSF, we won’t know for sure how this issue will play out.