On March 8, 28 United States women’s soccer players filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming that they are victims of gender-based pay discrimination because they receive lower wages overall than players on the U.S. men’s soccer team. Last month, the USSF responded to the lawsuit, according to Sports Illustrated. The organization admitted that the women’s team players made lower pay than players on the men’s team and the pay disparity was not based on gender difference but on the difference in revenue generated by the two national teams. In other words, the men brought in more money, so they were paid higher wages.
Yet, in a blockbuster new report published on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the USSF claims that the men bring in more cash than the women is simply not true — at least, not since 2015 when the U.S. National Women’s Team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the third time.
The Journal obtained audited financial statements from the USSF. Those statements show that in the years 2016, 2017, and 2018, the women’s team edged past the men’s team as the federation’s chief moneymaker, bringing in a total of $50.8 million. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Men’s Team generated $49.9 million in revenue over the same time span, according to a summary of the report by SI.
The U.S. men’s team played 49 matches in that span, compared to 60 for the women’s team, per Soccerway, meaning that the men’s team still generated a higher per-match revenue stream. The U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup also would have contributed to the men’s revenue shortfall. In addition, while the U.S. National Women’s Team competed in the 2018 Olympics in Brazil, the men’s team did not, and instead sent an Under-23 youth team to the Olympics.
Nonetheless, a spokesperson for the 28 players now suing the USSF said that pay disparity cannot be based on any factor “other than sex.”
“Even as the most decorated American soccer team in history, USSF treats the women’s team as ‘less-than’ equal compared to their male colleagues,” Molly Levinson told Sports Illustrated.
The figures obtained by The Wall Street Journal are based only on revenue generated by games played, according to an analysis by Axios. They do not include revenue generated from sponsorships and broadcast rights. Because the USSF sells broadcast rights to national team games as a “bundle,” including both the women’s and men’s teams in the same deal, distinguishing a difference in revenue generated from television is especially difficult.