The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) advanced to the knockout stages of the Men’s World Cup with a win over Iran yesterday, and the players on the pitch aren’t the only ones reaping the rewards the fruits. Thanks to the new collective agreement between the USMNT and the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), the men’s and women’s teams will share the prize money the men win in this World Cup, including the 13 million dollars they earn to qualify for the next round — a first in international football.
This means that the women could already bring in around $6 million just for the men who take the next step. Incredibly, that equates to more prize money than the USWNT brought home from winner the last two Women’s World Cups, combined.
According to Power Plays, the USWNT earned $2 million for winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup and $4 million for winning in 2019. To compare, after their victory over Iran, the men’s team will receive now at least $13 million, even if she loses her next game. If they win and advance to the next round, the prize money jumps up to $17 million. It then increases with each round, with the winners of the Men’s World Cup receiving $42 million.
The pay disparity between men’s and women’s World Cups is shameful in itself, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let’s get back to this collective agreement. In May, the USWNT’s years-long fight for equal pay resulted in a new CBA, signed by US Soccer and the men’s and women’s players’ associations. The agreement stipulated, among other things, that 90% of the World Cup-related prize money won by either team would be “pooled and shared equally” between the men’s and women’s teams, US Soccer taking a 10% discount.
According to US Soccer, the federation is the first in the world to equalize World Cup prize money between men’s and women’s teams. “The agreements will ensure that US Soccer’s senior national team players remain among the highest paid in the world,” US Soccer said at the time.
According to this agreement, the 13 million dollars already earned by the USMNT will be divided between the men’s and women’s teams, less the 10% which goes to US Soccer. That’s about $5.85 million for each team.
If you spend any time on the sports side of the internet, it won’t shock you to hear that some people are raving about it, apparently on behalf of the men’s team (which, again, voluntarily agreed to this CBA). Goals, a women’s sports consultancy, has rounded up some of the wackiest takes in an Instagram post for those of us who haven’t scoured the toxic comment sections ourselves. “Getting paid to do nothing. It’s quite embarrassing,” one person said, as apparently winning four World Cups is considered “doing nothing”.
“They are basically 2 completely different sports,” someone else said. “One has a lot of income, the other very little. How they pretty much tie up baffles me.” And my tired, personal favourite: “There’s a reason the two accomplishments are second to none… The ability, quality and skill of the women’s game are far inferior.”
Alex Morgan would probably nutmeg all those harsh commentators in 0.1 seconds, but that’s not the real issue here. As always, the majority of internet trolls are unaware of how popular women’s sports are and how fast they are growing. Women’s football alone has shown steady growth in interest and viewership for years. The 2019 Women’s World Cup drew a record 1.12 billion television viewers, according to FIFA, with 14.3 million American viewers tuning in to the final between the USWNT and the Netherlands . Since we’re making comparisons, that’s 22% more than the 2018 Men’s World Cup Final (11.4 million US viewers), according to Fox Sports via CNBC. This 2019 Women’s World Cup final was also the most-watched soccer match on English-language television — men’s or women’s! — in the United States since (oh, look at that) the 2015 Women’s World Cup final (25.4 million viewers).
And that’s just in the United States. Overall, the patterns are similar. The Euro 2022 women’s tournament set a record 365 million cumulative live viewers worldwide, more than double the number of 178 million viewers in 2017, according to UEFA. The Guinness World Record for the highest attendance at a women’s soccer match (a record held by the USWNT during the 1999 World Cup and held for 23 years) has been broken twice this year and is now held by the FC Barcelona Femení and VfL Wolfsburg, who drew 91,648 in a match at Barcelona on 22 April.
While we’re at it: The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States also broke regular season and playoff attendance records this year. Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit, principal investor in NWSL’s Angel City club, husband of Serena Williams, father of Olympia, etc.) told SportsCenter in September that investing in women’s soccer was “the best sports investment that I could do”. . . it was so grossly undervalued.” When we think of the excellence of American football, he explained, “we think of women…when we think of football, the most popular sport in the world, it was the women who carried the crown for us”.
To quote one of our commentators above, the “ability, quality and skill” of female footballers is enough to attract fans in droves. If the revenue isn’t there, it’s not because the sport isn’t popular, it’s because women’s football, and women’s sports in general, continue to be heavily undervalued by the media. and by the very organizations under which the teams operate. The NCAA’s absurd valuation of the March Madness Women’s Tournament is one example: according to an independent study released last year, the NCAA valued the women’s tournament at approximately $6 million per year. The real value? Over $80 million, potentially.
In football, FIFA itself (barely a bastion of equality) has recently criticized bids for TV deals for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA President Gianni Infantino saying that some bids were “100 times less, even more than 100 times on some occasions” than the value of the Men’s World Cup rights deal, according to The Associated Press. “We’re not going to accept that,” Infantino said, “because we know that the audience figures for these broadcasters in some major football countries for the Men’s World Cup or for the Women’s World Cup are actually very similar…meaning their advertising revenue is very similar for men and for women.”
The USWNT deserves so much more than what it received from its World Cup success.
Both female footballers and women’s soccer fans contribute to the growth of the sport, but at some point it falls to organizations (FIFA, US Soccer) to force broadcasters and sponsors to give players their due. And that means those organizations themselves must recognize the monetary value of women’s teams — the value of female athletes, who have so often been denigrated or simply ignored despite their success and popularity.
This brings us back to the joint ABC of the US National Teams, which was a clear step in the right direction and which by all accounts both teams were proud to adhere to. “They said equal pay for men and women was not possible, but that didn’t stop us and we went ahead and achieved it,” the FC Barcelona defender said. USMNT Walker Zimmerman, according to an article published by US Soccer. Zimmerman was among the men’s team leaders who took part in the negotiations. “We hope this will awaken others to the need for this kind of change,” he continued, “and inspire FIFA and others around the world to move in the same direction.”
Because that’s the real problem. Internet trolls can justify taking a pay cut for players with “lower quality” and lower earnings all they want. Maybe they think they’re defending the men’s team, but these players all signed with this CBA. They’ve known since March that any prize money they win at this World Cup will be shared with the women’s team, just like the women’s prize money will be shared next year; it’s a deal they seem to be proud of. “It’s a lot for both teams,” Zimmerman pointed out in a June interview on the Football Americana podcast. “What an incredible opportunity to do something historic and step up and be the first federation, [the] first men and women to agree on exactly equal pay.”
No, the men’s team seems fine with that. In this case, the organization the trolls are ultimately defending is FIFA, which could offer $60 million in prize money in total at the next Women’s World Cup, according to Power Play, up from $440 million at last. the Men’s World Cup. And yes, Infantino can point to unfair media rights deals — and broadcast companies have a lot to answer for, too — but this is an organization set to raise $7 billion by the end of this cycle. four-year-old World Cup winner, according to AP. It’s hard to imagine that FIFA really can’t afford to pay women’s teams an amount equal to, or at least substantially more than, what they currently receive in prize money, which in 2023, could be more than seven times less only men.
Based on their performance and popularity, the USWNT deserves much more than what they received from their World Cup success, but they can’t control what FIFA gives them. That’s why US Soccer and the men’s and women’s teams have taken this step themselves, through a collective bargaining agreement that guarantees equal pay, in hopes that it will not only make the playing field more egalitarian, but also serves as an example for other national federations and, ultimately, FIFA itself.
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