There Is No Wage Gap in Soccer

A new twist has emerged in the story over alleged pay disparities between the US Women's Soccer and their male counterparts.

The US Women’s Soccer team’s (USWNT) victory at the Women’s World Cup was a cause for national celebration, but for many, it also highlighted what seemed to be a glaring injustice: that despite performing to an even higher standard than the US Men’s team, women’s soccer players were allegedly being paid less.

The truth of the matter, however, is that a statistical disparity in itself is not proof of discrimination.

On International Women’s day, the USWNT filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. Back in 2016, members of the team had filed similar complaints, and a CBS News interview referred to this effort as a “historic fight for equal pay.”

The truth of the matter, however, is that a statistical disparity in itself is not proof of discrimination.

Different Pay Structures

Indeed, in the 2016 CBS interview, it is pointed out that men’s and women’s soccer teams have different pay structures, with men’s earnings heavily dependent on game bonuses and women being paid a guaranteed salary with benefits.

According to the US Soccer Federation, “U.S. Soccer guarantees WNT contracted players $100,000 per year…atop which they can earn game and tournament bonuses.” Men have no such salary guarantee.

These differences in payment structures are not the result of sexism. CBS noted that “it's a pay structure the women themselves wanted.”

Furthermore, the women receive “a robust package of benefits that are not provided to the men,” including “fully-paid health, dental and vision insurance; severance; a 401(k)-retirement plan; paid maternity leave; guaranteed injury protection; and assistance with childcare.”

These differences in payment structures are not the result of sexism. CBS noted that “it's a pay structure the women themselves wanted.” But apparently, it isn’t enough. Asked if USWNT would like the same pay structure as the men’s team, the response was, “We want the same [bonus] money that the men are making, exactly.”

Of course, if they make the same bonus money as men, in addition to their guaranteed salaries and range of fully paid benefits that men don’t get, that’s hardly “equal pay.”

Looking at the Data

Regardless, the assertion that the women’s soccer team gets paid less than the men’s is untrue in the first place.

We know this thanks to the president of the US Soccer Federation, who released an independently reviewed financial fact sheet that covers how both teams were paid between 2010 and 2018.

During that timeframe, the US Soccer Federation paid a total of $34.1 million in salaries and bonuses to the Women’s National Team (WNT), which is decidedly more than the $26.4 million paid to the Men’s National Team (MNT).

Even if the men’s team earned more, that would likely be the result of it being more commercially successful, not the result of discrimination.

It is also worth pointing out that between 2009 and 2019, the women’s team brought in $425,446 of gross revenue per game in comparison to the men’s team, which brought over twice that amount ($972,147 per game.)

So even if it were the case that the men’s team earned more, that would likely be the result of it being more commercially successful, not the result of discrimination.

Discrimination

There is also the issue of FIFA prizes, which are not controlled by the US Soccer Federation. If we include these prizes in our pay comparison, WNT was paid $39.7 million, and MNT was paid $41 million, a difference of only three percent, between 2010 and 2018.

In fact, when looking at salaries and bonuses paid out by the US Soccer Federation, women out-earn men.

The claim that the women’s soccer team is being discriminated against on the basis of their gender is not supported by the data provided by the US Soccer Federation.

In fact, when looking at salaries and bonuses paid out by the US Soccer Federation, women out-earn men. Moreover, in the past, the Women’s Team repeatedly chose the pay structure they are currently unhappy with, and that can hardly be blamed on anyone else.

Further Reading

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