Nov 25, 2021 - Sports

USWNT: A new CBA and an equal pay fight

Illustration of a soccer ball with $100 bills on it.

The USWNT and USMNT are currently negotiating new CBAs as well, with the men's already expired and the women's expiring on Dec. 31.

State of play: The U.S. Soccer Federation announced in September that it had offered both teams the same proposal in an effort to align them under a single CBA. Complicating things is that the men and women have long had different priorities.

  • The men earn most of their money from club soccer, so their most recent CBA focused on higher match fees and bonuses (aka "pay-to-play").
  • The women — who earn far less as pros — desire more financial security, so their current CBA has higher guaranteed salaries and more benefits.

Between the lines: While U.S. Soccer can decide how money is funneled to its national teams, it has no control over the elephant in the room: FIFA's World Cup prize money, which differs drastically for men and women.

  • France's soccer federation was paid $38 million from a $400 million prize pool after its men's team won the 2018 World Cup.
  • A year later, U.S. Soccer was paid $4 million from a $30 million pot after the USWNT won the Women's World Cup.

The backdrop: In addition to World Cup prize money, the USWNT's equal pay lawsuit also hangs over negotiations.

  • Players sued U.S. Soccer in March 2019, contending they had not been paid equitably compared to the men, and asking for more than $64 million in damages.
  • A federal judge threw out the pay claim in May 2020, ruling the women rejected a pay-to-play structure similar to the men's in favor of the one they received (higher base salaries, etc.).
  • U.S. Soccer claims the women were actually paid more than the men from 2010-18. Of course, that's because the women won two World Cups, while the men won one game in 2014 and missed 2018 entirely.

What's next: The USWNT players have appealed the decision, and a three-judge panel is likely to hear oral arguments in the coming months.

The bottom line: U.S. Soccer is negotiating its future, while battling in court over its past.

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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