A Guide to the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Lawsuit

women's pay disparity

If you’ve been watching the news or scouring the Internet recently, you may have stumbled upon a lawsuit being filed by the U.S. Women’s Soccer team. Maybe you’ve never cared much about soccer, but this caught your eye for good reason. The U.S. Women’s Soccer team has been quite successful in past years, even managing to pull a 13 – 0 win in their opening World Cup game against Thailand. The trouble is, despite these wins, they’re still being paid only a quarter of what the men are.

In 2015, five women from the team filed lawsuits against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) claiming gender discrimination. They came well-prepared with tons of facts and statistics that showed how a lot of the bonuses and compensations handed out by the federation benefited men more than women. They claimed that the varied pay structures were discriminatory against the women’s team.

That was all in 2015. Twenty-eight women filed another suit over pay discrimination just before heading out to compete once more in the Women’s World Cup tournament this year.

Their complaints weren’t just monetary. They also had worries concerning discrimination in how they traveled places, the accommodations they were given for practices, and even the medical treatment they received.

This sounds outrageous considering how many records the women’s team broke in that one game versus Thailand. Not only did they have the largest margin of victory with 13 goals, they also had records for the highest-performing game, most goals scored in one half, and the most goals scored by one player in a game (Alex Morgan with an insane five goals!), according to CBS Sports.

So, the question is: why on Earth are the women being paid so much less?

One explanation has to do with revenue. In the past, the U.S. Men’s team was bringing in a ton more revenue than the woman’s team. This trend has only recently started to change. In 2015, the women brought in more money for the USSF, and were projected to continue doing so.

Despite this, the conversation has to go beyond just the USSF and to FIFA as a whole – the women’s World Cup has been seen to bring in less revenue than the men’s, which could impact how the women are paid. Even if they win the World Cup, FIFA gives Women’s World Cup winners a lot less than they give the men and tend to pay the women less overall due to revenue disparity.

But back to pay structures – it’s been shown that the women are paid differently and in ways that seem to favor the men, so how important is arguing over revenue disparity when this pay structure discrepancy still exists?

women's soccer team lawsuit
via Business Insider

Or is the pay structure discrepancy necessary to help the women keep a solid base salary as people are less likely to watch or pay for women’s soccer?

As can be seen, there are plenty of intricacies in this argument. There’s a lot of back and forth with statistics and looking at how both teams play and are paid. Overall, I think this really brings to light a larger issue: the ways in which gender discrimination plays a large role in a variety of industries today.

Even if someone argues that the reason the men are paid more is because men’s soccer makes more revenue, it still comes down to the question of why. Why is society so much more interested in watching men play than women? Why are men’s sports viewed as more “legitimate”?

I’ve found this problematic in many aspects of my life. Often when it comes to physical activity, women are placed on the back burner. One of my most prominent memories of this was in middle school playing flag football. Our gym teacher separated the guys and the girls before proceeding to lead the girls off to a much smaller field. I remember him joking about giving us an actual ball before handing us one of those soft cushion-y toy footballs and leaving us to watch the guy’s play – with an actual football and an actual field – on the opposite end of the turf.

This sort of gender discrimination spreads from gym teachers in middle school to college sports and the professional world. Everyone wants to watch Men’s March Madness, but the second someone talks about the UCONN women’s team crushing everyone, nobody cares.

women's soccer team lawsuit
Photo by Tevarak Phanduang on Unsplash

Throughout high school and college, it’s easy to hear ignorant comments about women’s sports not being “real sports.” This pay disparity issue just brings all this to light – that the world is still very misogynistic when it comes to sports.

It makes it very difficult to try to solve this issue. We can’t just wave a magic wand to stop people from being sexist. We can’t erase everyone’s implicit biases. Fighting back against stereotypes is a long but hard journey. Yet, without the first steps, there’s no way we’ll get anywhere.

When it comes to this lawsuit, the women fighting for equal pay structures, better working conditions, and overall gender equality is one way to battle discrimination in the sports industry. The lawsuit not only helps the soccer team, but it’s encouraged other female teams like Canada’s soccer team and ones in the W.N.B.A. to speak up about misogyny in their jobs.

It takes plenty of small steps to finally see large impacts. Hopefully, as our world moves towards inclusivity and equality, we may see an increased respect for women’s sports.

Photo from azcentral.com