On April 5, 2017, the United States Women’s National Team player’s association and US Soccer finally reached a new collective bargaining agreement that promises better pay and working conditions for their players. While the pay isn’t exactly equal to that of the men’s team, some players could be making double or even triple their original salary. This agreement will last for the next five years, covering the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, finally expiring in 2021. This avoids any potential strike during the tournaments, which US Soccer adamantly wanted to avoid. The new deal ends a battle between the two sides that started in March of 2016. That month, national team players Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Rebecca Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Alex Morgan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stating that their pay and their working conditions were not nearly fair in comparison to that of the men’s team. On January 17, 2017, the USWNT player’s association underwent leadership changes as Rebecca Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg became the new representatives, who were determined to get the deal done.
In 2016, the base pay of a tier 1 national team player who also played in the National Women’s Soccer League was $128,000, without Olympic bonuses. The new agreement has players earning up to $200,000 to $300,000 per year with added benefits including more freedom with endorsements, which could result in additional potential opportunities to make more money.
The new deal comes in after the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) announced their partnership with A+E networks which allows one game to be broadcasted on Lifetime Network per week. The NWSL played an integral role in the bargaining process. They will hold US Soccer to continue to pay the salaries of women’s players under the condition that the players must stay committed to the league. Negatively speaking, this leaves the contracts of those playing overseas in question because the European seasons overlap with that of the NWSL. The CBA also states that US Soccer will fund the improvement of NWSL stadiums, facilities and player accommodations. The minimum salary of those in the NWSL is expected to double to at least $15,000, also resulting in an increased maximum salary and salary cap which has not been determined yet.
Player’s association representative and USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn said, “I think the deal that we got is phenomenal. And I think it’s a great step for the team now but also a great launching point for other CBA negotiations and other eras of this team that will be negotiating.”
She continued to say, “We do believe that going to a pay-to-play model [like the men’s national team] is the future… For us, it was structuring the CBA to let go of some of the security that comes from the national team and placing that more on NWSL. I would say that’s kind of where we were meeting in the middle.”
In a podcast with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, Sauerbrunn said, “We’re trying to figure out where women’s soccer is going, so we may not have the same exact structure as the men. So equal isn’t the right word. It would be equitable, because we are asking for a different structure.”
The CBA of the soccer team came just days after the the Unites States Women’s Hockey team won their own battle for equal pay. The hockey team threatened to boycott the Women’s World Championships, but reached a deal the day before the competition began, going on to win gold. Although the financial terms of the agreement have not been released to the public, it has been stated that there will be more of an effort from USA Hockey to improve women’s and girl’s hockey in the future.
Slowly but surely, the battle for inter-gender equality in professional sports is moving in the right direction, and it is just a matter of time before every other professional women’s sport follows suit.