Nov 25, 2021 - Sports

U.S. Soccer president: “We’re on the same side” as USWNT on equal pay

Cindy Parlow Cone

Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Axios spoke with Cindy Parlow Cone, the president of U.S. Soccer (and former USWNT star), about the ongoing CBA negotiations and equal pay lawsuit.

There's a lot going on right now. Where do things stand at the U.S. Soccer Federation?

It's an unprecedented time. I don't know of another organization negotiating two CBAs simultaneously, while also trying to resolve litigation. At the same time, we're undergoing changes in our business structure and bringing our media rights back in. So it's certainly an interesting time at U.S. Soccer.

The equal pay debate has largely been framed as USWNT vs. USSF. Is that accurate? Or is U.S. Soccer's stance misunderstood?

This is not the women's team vs. the federation. We're on the same side, and the sooner people realize that, the better off we'll be. We believe in equal pay and would love the opportunity to hook arms with the USWNT and work towards equalizing not only the FIFA World Cup prize money, but overall investment in the women's game.

What's keeping that from happening? What's the biggest challenge in the quest for equal pay?

The FIFA World Cup prize money is the biggest hurdle, because that's where the massive difference in pay is. I think FIFA will get there, but until they do, we've told the men's and women's players' associations that we're not signing a CBA unless we all come to terms on how we're going to equalize the prize money [on our end].

In September, the federation announced that it had offered the men and women identical contracts. Can you speak to that?

We would love to have both teams under the same contract. We know there may be small differences because the women want something the men don't want and vice versa ... But having them in the same room, understanding what each side wants and is being offered will hopefully get us to the point where both players' associations say "this is equal."

Is true "equal" pay even possible given the differences between the men's and women's games?

Yeah, you bring up some of the complexities of getting to an agreement. How do you make pay equal for two teams that compete against different teams, in different countries, on different schedules, in different tournaments, with different pay structures? It's challenging, but we have to find a structure that works for everyone.

One potential solution to the FIFA prize money problem is the men voluntarily taking less money so the women get more. Is that what needs to happen?

I feel like every advancement a woman has made throughout history, they have needed male advocates. You look through our history and the history of other countries, and you see that time and time again. The majority has to look out for the minorities, and this is another case of that.

This story is part of a special report on the state of U.S. women's soccer. It appeared first in Axios Sports. (Sign up here.)

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