Women’s soccer team wins again with $24 million equal pay suit
U.S. National Women’s Soccer team | website

SAN FRANCISCO —The longtime medal winning U.S. National Women’s Soccer team racked up yet another win on February 22, but this one was in court: The U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to settle the team’s equal pay suit, for $24 million.

And while that didn’t equal the $67 million they sought to make up for decades of past pay discrimination—compared to the perennially awful U.S. men’s team—the settlement also ensures equal pay for equal soccer work going forward. So the women hailed it.

The breakdown of the settlement is $22 million in back pay and $2 million more for a fund the USNWT players can draw from to help develop their post-soccer careers.

There was no estimate on how much the women would gain from the future equal pay mandate. That includes, among other provisions, equal pay for World Cup and Olympic appearances and wins.

Male-dominated international soccer doles out those funds, mostly from TV revenues, to national federations, and the women have gotten pennies on the dollar—even as they kept winning titles and the men kept finishing far out of the running.

The outcome of the 2014 men’s World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup demonstrated the difference. After a $3.625 million payment to the U.S. Soccer Federation—the bosses–the men split $5.375 million. They had a 1-1-1 record and finished second in their four-team group, then lost in the first playoff round. That was their best showing in 20 years.

The women won the whole 64-team tournament—again—went undefeated–again–and split $1.725 million, after a $250,000 payment to the U.S. Soccer Federation.

“For us as players, I’m just so proud of the way we stuck together and really just kind of put our foot down. This is a huge win for us,” longtime star Megan Rapinoe told USA Today. Some 28 USNWT players, led by Rapinoe and goalie Hope Solo, filed the suit. “We not only right the wrongs of the past but set the next generation up for something that we could only have dreamed of.”

The settlement came just two weeks before a scheduled March 7 trial of the equal pay case in federal court in San Francisco—a trial that would have publicly put the Biden administration on the soccer team’s side.

That’s because the team let the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission take part in what would have been the oral argument for their cause. And in the 2020 presidential campaign, Democratic President Joe Biden strongly backed the team’s equal pay case.

The judge sitting then had dismissed the case, saying the women’s union agreed to a contract with unequal pay in it. The judge granted the women’s claims for equality in benefits and facilities, such as training sites, equipment and meals, and in the quality of soccer fields.

The judge’s ruling in 2020 prompted a tweeted Biden retort, with one part backing the team and the other telling the U.S. Soccer Federation—the team’s bosses—not to expect federal support if they bid to bring World Cup games to U.S. shores:

“To @USNWT: Don’t give up this fight. This is not over yet. To @USSSoccer: Equal pay, now. Or else, when I’m president, you can go elsewhere for World Cup funding.”

The settlement also depends on a new collective bargaining agreement between the women’s team and the bosses. The current head of the U.S. Soccer Federation, former women’s team player Cindy Parlow Cone, told sports media that constant legal battles between USSF and the women’s team hurts both.

The catch to getting a new CBA, though, is Carlos Cordeiro. Cone replaced him when he was forced to resign under pressure. He’s running to get his old job back, the Washington Post reported. Cordeiro opposes equal pay and denigrated the women’s team as “inferior.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.