US soccer leads the way for pay equity in sports

After years of courageous advocacy by members of the United States women’s national soccer team, including years of class action litigation, the United States Soccer Federation (Federation) recently agreed to pay female and male soccer players equally now and going forward. The Federation adopted this long-overdue approach when executing six-year collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with the union representing the women’s national soccer team and the union representing the men’s national soccer team, respectively.

The advocacy by members of the women’s national soccer team began to receive public attention after members filed civil rights claims with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016. Since that time, the women’s national soccer team has continued to surpass the performance of the men’s national soccer team by a wide margin -- including winning another World Cup trophy after already winning multiple World Cup trophies and Olympic medals. By contrast the men’s national soccer team has never won a World Cup trophy or an Olympic medal.

Under the newly executed CBAs, the Federation agrees to pay the female national soccer team players and male national soccer team players equally for all national soccer team “friendly” games against other national soccer teams as well as agrees to pay equally for all official tournament games. To that end, the Federation commits under the CBAs to pool unequal payments it receives from international soccer bodies and to redistribute all monies to ensure absolute pay equity for all players -- whether they play for the women’s national soccer team or for the men’s national soccer team. The CBAs also require the Federation to provide identical performance-based bonuses and revenue-sharing payments regardless of the player’s sex. That members of the women’s national soccer team accomplished this landmark victory through collective bargaining, after suffering setbacks in court litigation, underscores the value and power of employees organizing themselves and advocating together for workplace fairness.