By Zac Cornell
After six years of fighting and lawsuits over unequal pay and conditions, U.S. Soccer has finally settled with the U.S. Women’s National Team securing equal pay for men’s and women’s soccer, and a payout of $24 million, which is mostly back pay. The long-running fight between the World Cup-winning women’s soccer team and U.S. soccer had been a high profile black eye for the organization and grew into a larger conversation about equality for female athletes, with the WNBA, ice hockey, and women soccer players in other countries all building their own cases for gender equality with guidance from the U.S. women’s soccer players. Many of these other organizations have negotiated better conditions and pay for female athletes as a result, and the soccer federations of Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands had already reached agreements to close the gender pay gap.
Alex Morgan, the striker and former co-captain of the women’s national team told The New York Times, that the women achieved everything that they had hoped for with their lawsuit, saying, “What we set out to do was to have acknowledgment of discrimination from U.S. Soccer, and we received that through back pay in the settlement. We set out to have fair and equal treatment in working conditions, and we got that through the working conditions settlement. And we set out to have equal pay moving forward for us and the men’s team through U.S. Soccer, and we achieved that.”
Although the U.S. women’s national team, which was ranked number one in FIFA for six consecutive years and won four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, had significant public support for their gender discrimination lawsuit, their successful resolution was not guaranteed after a federal judge dismissed their equal pay arguments in 2020. Despite that legal setback, the rising profile of the superstar players, the growing cultural awareness around gender equality, and other countries’ adoption of change all worked in the team’s favor.
“It wasn’t an easy process to get to this point for sure,” Cindy Parlow Cone, U.S. Soccer’s president, admitted to The New York Times. “The most important thing here is that we are moving forward, and we are moving forward together.”
In moving forward, the agreement is dependent on the signing of a new contract between U.S. Soccer and the player’s union. But upon that final condition, U.S. Soccer has agreed to equal pay for men and women. And that gender equality resolution was the women players’ ultimate goal. As Morgan told The New York Times, “I think it was just extremely motivating to see organizations and employers admit their wrongdoing, and us forcing their hand in making it right. The domino effect that we helped kick-start—I think we’re really proud of it.”