America didn't invent soccer, but this nation has taken global leadership in making the world's game truly equitable.
A May 18 collective bargaining deal solidified an arrangement a long time coming: equal pay for the men's and women's national soccer teams. It is staggering to contemplate how slow this progress has been. The Women's World Cup — which the U.S. Women's National Team has won four times — has been a global event since 1991.
Yet, three decades later, it still took protracted negotiations and a lawsuit, settled in February, for America to become the first nation to equalize pay for its international soccer representatives. The movement needs to go global. Women's World Cup teams competed in 2019 for shares of $30 million — less than 8% of the $400 million that constituted the pot in the 2018 men's tournament.
The U.S. women won the 2019 Women's World Cup. For that, players took home $110,000 bonuses, about $300,000 less than members of the men's team would have made had they won a men's World Cup title in 2018. The new landmark agreement will pool FIFA's unequal payouts so each player on a U.S. World Cup team, men's or women's, gets an equal share of the collective prize money. Extra bonuses for wins have also been equalized between teams, ending the upside-down reality where the women's side was given short shrift despite winning more. About time.
"It's just a little bit surreal," star winger Megan Rapinoe told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Who could blame her for needing a moment to adjust to such a historic correction?
Another well-considered element of the bargain between U.S. Soccer and the respective national teams: the men's team will have federation-provided child care, as the women's team has for 25 years.
These significant strides toward ending senseless and outdated gender biases are years overdue. However, they arrive just in time to resonate powerfully as American soccer takes another leap forward in prominence.
In 2026, stadiums across the U.S. will host men's World Cup games, which have not been played on American soil since 1994. The host role will put a powerful spotlight on America's advance in soccer gender equity; co-hosts Canada and Mexico — and the rest of the soccer, football and fútbol world — should follow suit.