U.S. Soccer breaks post-World Cup silence on equal pay, but issues persist

When the U.S. women's national team won the World Cup three weeks ago, the crowd in Lyon, France began chanting “Equal pay! Equal pay!” Since then, the U.S. Soccer Federation has been under pressure from not just fans, but its own members, sponsors and even representatives from Congress.

Now, U.S. Soccer is breaking its silence, forcefully pushing back on the notion that the women haven't been compensated fairly. In a letter and factsheet sent to U.S. Soccer members Monday, federation president Carlos Cordeiro claims that the women have actually been paid more than their male counterparts over the past decade.

According to Cordeiro, who says he directed federation staff to use actual W-2 filings and payroll records to analyze financials, the women's national team players were paid $34.1 million in game bonuses and salaries from 2010 through 2018, while men's national team players earned just $26.4 million.

“Just as our WNT players have shared their perspective, I strongly believe that you – as U.S. Soccer members, stakeholders, sponsors and partners – deserve to hear ours,” Cordeiro's letter says. “Now that the Women’s World Cup is behind us, a common understanding of key facts will also help advance our shared work to grow women’s soccer in America as well as the larger national discussion about equality.”

Ostensibly, U.S. Soccer and Cordeiro put out these figures to end the narrative that U.S. Soccer hasn't paid the women equally to the men and eliminate the term “equal pay” from the conversation, which has gained traction since the USWNT players sued their boss in March over alleged gender discrimination.

But areas of dispute – topics that will come up in mediation or, if necessary, trial – still persist.

The first issue is one that the players themselves have raised repeatedly: They have had to win to earn the compensation they do get, while the men don't have the same burden of success.

The factsheet doesn't make clear how much of the USWNT's compensation is a direct result of the fact that they won a World Cup, an Olympics and the vast majority of their friendlies in that timeframe, while the men failed to qualify for a World Cup entirely. If the women had suffered the same failures as the men, their compensation would likely be much lower.

12 PHOTOS
USWNT players, fans celebrate World Cup win
See Gallery
USWNT players, fans celebrate World Cup win
Megan Rapinoe holds the Women's World Cup trophy as the U.S. women's soccer team is celebrated with a parade along the Canyon of Heroes, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title. Wednesday, July 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Construction workers watch as members of the U.S. women's soccer team is celebrated with a ticker tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title.(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
U.S. women's soccer team player Megan Rapinoe pours champagne for an unidentified teammate as Alex Morgan, rear left, watches during a ticker tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title.(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A fan on a float poses during a ticker tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes honoring the U.S. national women's soccer team, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: A Fan looks on during the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Victory Parade and City Hall Ceremony on July 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: (L-R) United States Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro, Megan Rapinoe, Allie Long and Alex Morgan celebrate while riding on a float during The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Victory Parade and City Hall Ceremony down the Canyon of Heroes on July 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe signs a vest that United States Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro holds while riding on a float during The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Victory Parade and City Hall Ceremony down the Canyon of Heroes on July 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 10: Megan Rapinoe celebrates during the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Victory Parade and City Hall Ceremony on July 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The U.S. women's soccer team member Jessica McDonald flexes during a celebration at City Hall after a ticker tape parade, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
The U.S. women's soccer team captains' Alex Morgan, left, and Megan Rapinoe celebrate at City Hall after a ticker tape parade, Wednesday, July 10, 2019 in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Fans celebrates as members of the the U.S. women's soccer team approach during a ticker tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes, Wednesday, July 10, 2019, in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title.(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
The U.S. women's soccer team member Megan Rapinoe holds the championship trophy at City Hall after a ticker tape parade, Wednesday, July 10, 2019 in New York. The U.S. national team beat the Netherlands 2-0 to capture a record fourth Women's World Cup title. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Secondly, the federation argues that the women earn guaranteed compensation that the men's team does not in the form of salaries. While that sounds like a much better deal for the women, it's worth noting that the men's team has traditionally gotten at least $5,000-per-player bonuses just for losing games, which essentially act as a game-appearance fee. If the men played 20 games in a year, that's a guarantee of $100,000 without winning a single game, which is equal to the base available to members of the women's team.

(Not all women on the national team get a $100,000 salary, either. U.S. Soccer did not explain this in their factsheet, but in 2019 only 18 players were paid guaranteed salaries. That number will drop down every year, based on the collective bargaining agreement the players signed in 2017.)

In short, the women's salaries and the men's loss bonuses serve a similar function as being guaranteed compensation available for each team. So, it's not as if the women get guaranteed compensation and the men do not – it's just structured differently.

That – the difference between how the men and women are paid – is the heart of the matter and the difficulty U.S. Soccer has in trying to squelch the "equal pay" discussion. While the women haven't clearly defined what "equal pay" should look like – it may not be possible as long as the pay structures differ – it will also be hard for U.S. Soccer to argue that its pay for the women has been equal or greater.

U.S. Soccer points to other examples of the way it has supported the women beyond its investments in the men's team.

Cordeiro's letter states that U.S. Soccer has invested $18 million in founding and operating the National Women's Soccer League, which is where every member of the USWNT competes on the club level. As part of that, U.S. Soccer pays the women NWSL salaries of between $62,500 and $72,500, on top of their compensation for U.S. national team duty.

In the letter, Cordeiro points out the women get some benefits the men don't, such as maternity leave and severance. He also takes credit for health insurance offered to players on the U.S. women's team that the men's team doesn't receive. However, Yahoo understands that health insurance for the women is actually provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and U.S. Soccer pays players $1,500 to offset the taxes players pay for the coverage.

The topline from Cordeiro's letter is clearly the new comparison he revealed, which alleges the women have paid nearly $8 million more than the men's team over the past decade. But the more important thing might be the tone he strikes. The factsheet in the letter goes out of its way to discredit the claims in the lawsuit, but then Cordeiro acknowledges that U.S. Soccer wants to do better and he vows to work with the players.

“Still, like any organization, U.S. Soccer recognizes that we can continue to improve, in partnership with our women’s players,” Cordeiro writes after explaining that the federation has treated the USWNT better than many people acknowledge. “In the weeks ahead, we’ll focus on preparing for mediation and resolving this matter in the best interests of the WNT and U.S. Soccer. I want you to know that U.S. Soccer is committed to doing right by our players, and I’ve been encouraged by the public comments from players expressing their desire for a cooperative approach. I remain optimistic that we can find common ground.”

21 PHOTOS
USWNT highlights from the Women's World Cup
See Gallery
USWNT highlights from the Women's World Cup
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Sari Van Veenendaal of the Netherlands reaches for the ball as Rose Lavelle of the USA scores her team's second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Richard Heathcote - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Alex Morgan of the USA is fouled by Stefanie Van der Gragt of the Netherlands leading to a penalty during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates with teammate Alex Morgan after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's first goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United State of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
United States' Alex Morgan, left, competes for the ball against France's Elise Bussaglia during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (1) deflects the ball away from France's Valerie Gauvin during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States' Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring her side's second goal during the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between France and the United States at the Parc des Princes, in Paris, Friday, June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Players of England celebrate after winning the Women's World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Norway and England at the Oceane stadium in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
United States' Kelley O Hara leaps over Sweden's Kosovare Asllani during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between Sweden and the United States at Stade Océane, in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Julie Ertz of USA #8 celebrates her goal with Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, Morgan Brian during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Chile at Parc des Princes stadium on June 16, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
LE HAVRE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Lindsey Horan of the USA scores her team's first goal the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between Sweden and USA at Stade Oceane on June 20, 2019 in Le Havre, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
United States' Carli Lloyd, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's third goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Chile goalkeeper Claudia Endler lunges for the ball to make a safe during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. US won 3-0. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
United States' Carli Lloyd celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Chile at the Parc des Princes in Paris, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
United States' Carli Lloyd, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Sunday, June 16, 2019. Lloyd scored twice in US' 3-0 victory. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
United States' Megan Rapinoe, right, congratulates teammate Alex Morgan after scoring her fifth goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
United States' Alex Morgan, centre, scores her team's fifth goal during the Women's World Cup Group F soccer match between the United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of USA shots to goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Megan Rapinoe of United States of America celebrates with the supporters after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of the USA celebrates after scoring her team's eleventh goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Cathrin Mueller - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
REIMS, FRANCE - JUNE 11: Final score on the scoreboard after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

[ Follow Yahoo Soccer on Twitter and Facebook ]

A representative for the players, however, called Cordeiro's letter and factsheet “a sad attempt by USSF to quell the overwhelming tide of support the USWNT has received from everyone from fans to sponsors to the United States Congress.”

“Any apples to apples comparison shows that the men earn far more than the women,” the statement said. “The fact is, the women’s team requested the same compensation structure as the men have, so they would be paid equally for equal performance. USSF refused, offering lower compensation in every category for the women’s team in a pay for performance structure. That is patently unequal pay.”

“Here is what they cannot deny,” the statement continued. “For every game a man plays on the MNT he makes a higher base salary payment than a woman on the WNT. For every comparable win or tie, his bonus is higher. That is the very definition of gender discrimination. For the USSF to believe otherwise, is disheartening but it only increases our determination to obtain true equal pay. If the USSF cannot agree to this at the upcoming mediation, we will see them in the court of law and the court of public opinion.”

This issue will continue to play out in boardrooms, but at least now U.S. Soccer has told its version of the story.

Caitlin Murray is a contributor to Yahoo Sports and her book about the U.S. women’s national team, The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer, is out now. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinmurr.

More from Yahoo Sports:

Read Full Story
  • DJI27001.98-22.82-0.08%
    NASDAQ8124.18-24.52-0.30%
  • NIKKEI 22522503.9731.050.14%
    Hang Seng26891.70227.420.85%
    DAX12670.1140.320.32%
  • USD (PER EUR)1.110.00050.04%
    USD (PER CHF)1.010.00140.14%
    JPY (PER USD)108.760.04200.04%
    GBP (PER USD)1.280.00040.03%