How the US women’s team World Cup 13-0 win became about pay equity

Carli Lloyd of the USA celebrates with teammate Megan Rapinoe after scoring her team’s thirteenth goal during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand

The US women’s team scored more goals in one game than the men’s team has in every World Cup since 2006 combined.

The US national women’s soccer team beat Thailand’s team 13-0 Tuesday. In doing so, the players scored more goals than the men’s national soccer team has scored in every World Cup series since 2006 combined. And the achievement has led to increased calls for the women to be paid the same as their male counterparts.

The US women’s soccer team is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation claiming its members face “purposeful gender discrimination.” The team is the best in the world and has been for a very long time. It won the World Cup title in 2015, and are the favorites this year as well. The men’s team did not qualify for the last World Cup series, and its biggest ever World Cup wins were two 3-0 victories against Belgium and Paraguay in 1930.

Despite the women’s history of successes on the field, the US Soccer Federation pays women players far less than men — in fact, the group pays men more when they lose than it pays women when they win. Here’s the disparity, as outlined by ESPN:

Among the numbers cited in the EEOC filing are that the women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 friendlies, the minimum number they are required to play in a year. But the men would likely earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games. Additionally, the women get paid nothing for playing more than 20 games, while the men get between $5,000 and $17,625 for each game played beyond 20.

The lawsuit claims the discrimination isn’t only in pay, but also what the players see as discrimination in every aspect of their work — from training, to travel, to promotion. The lawsuit even addresses how the women have to play on artificial grass more often than the men’s team does, something that makes the women more prone to injury.

The US Soccer Federation doesn’t dispute that the men and women are paid differently, or are subjected to different standards, but it says there is a disparity because it has “different pay structures for performing different work,” essentially claiming the men and women’s teams do unequal work. But the astounding win against Thailand has thrust the lack of pay equity onto the national stage.

“Here’s an idea: If you win 13-0—the most goals for a single game in World Cup history—you should be paid at least equally to the men’s team,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate tweeted after the game.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor and used the women’s team challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to urge Congress to pass legislation aimed at ending gender-based discrimination generally.

“This is an issue of basic fairness,” Schumer said. “Performances aside — and the women have been excellent and often dominant over the past two decades — we shouldn’t reward women less for doing the same work as men.”

The US women’s soccer team has been fighting the gender pay gap for a while

As Emily Crockett wrote for Vox, “the wage gap for women soccer players is orders of magnitude larger than the overall wage gap for women in the United States.” Women in America make roughly 80 cents for every dollar men make. That figure is much less for women of color: Black women earn about 61 cents on the dollar, and Latina women make about 53 cents on the dollar.

However, US women soccer players can earn as little as 40 percent of what men on the national team rake in, the women’s team says, citing the US Soccer Federation’s 2016 budget figures.

As Schumer explained on the Senate floor, women players earn a base salary of $3,600 per game while men earn $5,000. Women who play on the world stage — like in the World Cup — get a $15,000 bonus; male soccer players earn a bonus of $55,000.

In 2015, the US Soccer Federation awarded the women’s team $1.7 million for winning the World Cup. One year prior, the federation awarded the men’s national team a $5.4 million bonus for losing in the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup.

And it’s not that the women’s team isn’t making the US Soccer Federation money; 2015 budget figures showed a $23 million increase in revenue attributed to the women’s team’s World Cup win and victory tour — more than what the men’s team brought in during that time period.

But still the US Soccer Federation contends that the jobs the women and men do are fundamentally different — and therefore are subject to different compensation structures. SB Nation’s Bridget Gordon explains this all in detail.

The women’s team disagrees with this position, and filed a federal complaint of wage discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. This complaint led to them forging a better deal the following year that included raises. But with their pay still unequal to the men’s team, the women’s team filed a lawsuit against US Soccer in March in the lead up to the World Cup series. They expect to go to trial after the World Cup is over.

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