USWNT Lawsuit For Equal Pay Ahead of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019

FIFA Women's World Cup Pay USWNT

U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) vs U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF)

Mayor, Morgan, Heath & Rapinoe

Less than one month prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USSF and the USWNT are butting heads over fair pay. 28 players, including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, are the plaintiffs. In this lawsuit, the USWNT’s names the current payment situation as gender discrimination. This has even drawn support from Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, Sloane Stephens and former FIFA head of women’s soccer, Tatiana Haenni. Here are the arguments for and against the USSF.

Gender Inequality

As previously discussed on the Unafraid Show, sports needs to make greater strides towards gender equality in coaching. For women’s soccer, they also want equality in pay. In their case, the USWNT identifies 41 different issues with equal pay. Three stand out: prize money and bonuses, doing the “right thing” and success.

Less Prize Money for Women of USWNT

After losing in the round of sixteen in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the men’s team earned 5.375 million dollars in bonuses. Dissimilarly, the women (2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup winners) only received 1.725 million dollars in bonuses. Additionally, FIFA allocated 30 million dollars of prize money for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup versus 440 million dollars for the 2022 FIFA (men’s) World Cup. The winning women’s team will earn 4 million dollars in prize money, but that is far below the 38 million dollars gain by France in 2018.

Merit and Doing the “Right Thing”

In a 2016 lawsuit against the USSF (for similar reasons), lawyer Jeffrey Kessler brought up a strong argument in favor of equal pay regardless of revenue. He noted that figure skating distributes prize money equally. Even though the women produce more revenue than men, figure skating chooses to “do the right thing”. Like this, Kessler and the USWNT believe that the USSF should set a strong example moving forward with equal pay.

Unlike the U.S. Men, U.S. Women are Actually Good at Soccer

US women's soccer team pileon vs Japan, Olympic gold medal match, August 9, 2012

For years, the U.S. National Men’s soccer team has been a disappointment. They didn’t even qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. On the other hand, the U.S. Women’s National Team is adorned with success. The USWNT won the World Cup in 1991, 1999 and 2015 in addition to winning four Olympic gold medals. Each of these are feats that the men’s team haven’t come close to, let alone achieve it multiple times. Because of this success, the 2015 Women’s World Cup final broke the record for being the most watched soccer match shown on English-language television” in the US. This wasn’t just the most watched soccer game involving a U.S. team, it was the most viewed soccer game in America, period.

USSF Retort

On Tuesday of this week, the USSF sent their volley back at the USWNT in their federal statement.


First off, the USSF argued that the U.S. Women’s National team can’t compare apple to oranges. The sports the U.S. men and women play and their contracts are different. Contract-wise, the USMNT and USWNT have different CBAs. Men are paid strictly by matches played. This is a “pay-for-play” structure. They are not compensated year-round for being called up to the national team. Women, on the other hand, are under contract with benefits for their entire tenure with the national team. This includes guaranteed salaries, half-pay maternity leave, and even paying the salaries of national team players in the N.W.S.L. Because of the stark difference between the structures of the men’s and women’s collective bargaining agreements, U.S. Soccer refuses to admit disparities on sex. Especially because the USSF claims that the women “consistently rejected all proposals” for a pay-for-play structure.

Revenue Matters to the USSF and FIFA

Furthermore, the USSF backed their stance against the allegations on gender-based pay. “Any alleged pay differential” is due to the “aggregate revenue” differences generated by each teams, among other factors. Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer’s president, said that revenue generation should matter in a market economy. Though the 2015 World Cup final broke viewing records, Gulati noted that, on average since 2012, the men’s ratings are more than double than the women’s. Taking World Cup games out of the equation, those numbers are almost four times as high. So even with record-breaking views, women’s soccer in the US is still below men’s in revenue and ratings. Like this, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, said that the prize money for the World Cup tournaments are “linked with the revenues that are generated”. Thus, Gulati and the USSF argue, the pay differential is legal and not sex-based.

Should Revenue Matter?

The short answer is an obvious yes. Revenue matters. Money talks. Capitalism in U.S. sports is highly relevant. However, revenue can be quite different at times when opposing sides are comparing notes. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports compared the respective revenues of the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups. In 2010, the men’s World Cup brought in four billion dollars, of which the teams split 9-percent.

On the contrary, the women’s World Cup brought in 73 million dollars in 2015, of which teams shared 13-percent. Additionally, of the six billion dollars generated by the men’s World Cup in 2018, teams split less than 7-percent. Whereas, this Women’s World Cup is expected to earn 131 million dollars and dole out 30 million dollars. If that estimation is correct, FIFA prize money for women would be almost 17-percent higher than men. This suggests that FIFA is much more generous to women than men.

But, the Associated Press reported that generated money is quite unclear. This is because much of FIFA’s revenue comes from top sponsors signed up for both World Cups.

“That’s something never really analyzed.” “What is the potential value of the Women’s World Cup? Nobody knows the Women’s World Cup commercial value because it’s not sold separately. This is something that should at least be discussed.”

Tatiana Haenni, former FIFA head of women’s soccer

So, if the revenues are difficult to assess, why then do both sides claim to have a strong grasp on the generated money?

Is U.S. Soccer Sexist?

USA Soccer Fans (4705515039)

Murky Waters

Without clear financials, it is extremely difficult to assess the equality in U.S. soccer. If revenue numbers from the World Cup and prize money percentages are correct, U.S. soccer does practice unfair gender payment… but in favor of women. Proportionally, they would out-earn men in soccer based off of that revenue generated. With that being said, soccer lacks study into revenue streams.

Ratings and Views

It becomes murkier when considering World Cup views. Women, in the 2015 final, set record ratings. How could a World Cup winning team set a record for viewing, yet still fall below men in the same sport that didn’t make it past the round of sixteen? It’s baffling, but it’s about more than one game. Greater action requires longevity and consistency. A single blip of a game won’t be enough for change. They need to earn ratings and revenue equal to, or close to, the men in order to garner financial success.

The Future is Promising

At the moment, there is not enough public evidence to persecute U.S. Soccer in gender-inequality. Obviously, this isn’t good for women. Such a large gap in the same exact sport is an incredibly hard pill to swallow. Yet, there is hope. First off, both Visa and Adidas came out in support for equal pay. Visa reported they will invest as much marketing support to women’s football as they did with the men’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. Additionally, Adidas promised to pay equal bonuses for their sponsored players if they win the World Cup.

Last, the USWNT has the chance this summer to cement themselves as America’s favorite soccer team. Without a berth in 2018, American soccer fans lacked a home team. Now, those same fans have the reigning champs for the 2019 World Cup. If the USWNT can somehow pull off another World Cup win, they should garner more attention, sponsors and ticket sales in the future. Should female athletes have to outperform their male counterparts by miles in order to get equal pay? Of course not. But with how male-dominated professional and national sports are, it’s the current state of soccer.

Get Out and Support Female Athletes

So, I’ll end with a call to action. To fans of all sports. Go watch this World Cup. Follow every match, Tweet about these impressive athletes and bring attention to the sport. Help push the USWNT into not only another World Cup final, but a level playing field with men.

USWNT Goalkeepers: 2019 Women’s World Cup Roster Watch, Part 1

Fifa World Cup USWNT goal keepers
Hope Solo USA Training

As they prepare for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USWNT goalkeepers have big gloves to fill. In 2016, the USWNT decided to terminate Hope Solo’s contract in controversy. Solo was the greatest women’s goalkeeper in U.S. history and probably the world. From the 2007 World Cup, she dominated the international level and was an intimidating wall to opposition. Solo holds U.S. records for international appearances, starts, wins, shutouts, wins in a season, consecutive minutes played and the longest undefeated streak. Solo led the U.S. to two Olympic gold medals and a second-place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, earning the Golden Glove. Most notably, Solo’s strength, leadership and prowess as a goalkeeper led the U.S. to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

But now, without Solo, how will the USWNT goalkeepers fare? For over two decades, the U.S. had arguably the best back-to-back set of goalkeepers in Briana Scurry and Hope Solo. They covered six World Cups in that time. That was then. This is now. All eyes are on the USWNT to repeat their 2015 success (especially considering their lawsuit for equal pay). Because of Jill Ellis’ decision to only bring only six midfielders and seven defenders, the defense and goalkeeping will have to be stout. One injury or two yellow cards to those positions puts this team at a high risk of collapsing. The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a big test for the USWNT goalkeepers. Let’s hope they are mentally prepared for it.

Starting USWNT Goalkeeper

Alyssa Naeher | Age: 31 | Caps: 44

Following the Hope Solo fallout, Alyssa Naeher rose to the top of the USWNT goalkeeper’s depth chart. Alyssa Naeher is the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL. In her 23 games in 2018, Naeher recorded a save success rate of 67.7-percent and 7 clean sheets. One year prior, in 2017, Naeher had a 72-percent save success rate and 6 clean sheets.

She was drafted 11th overall in the 2010 Women’s Professional Soccer draft. Since then, Naeher played for the Boston Breakers (WPS), the Turbine Potsdam (Frauen-Bundesliga), the Boston Breakers (NWSL) and the Chicago Red Stars. Naeher was NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 when she broke the record for saves in a season (106). Soccer analysts acclaim Naeher as a top-ten goalkeeper heading into the 2019 Women’s World Cup, but criticize her lack of big-game experience and mistake prone play.

Alyssa Naeher June2018 warmup

U-20 and Post-Solo Success

While Naeher doesn’t have World Cup experience, she does have starter experience in the U-20 Women’s World Cup. In that tournament, the Naeher earned the Golden Glove, while the USWNT U-20 took first place. Naeher also was on the 2015 Women’s World Cup roster. She wasn’t in the game, but she was a part of the preparation and saw the games unfold from the sidelines. Bench minutes are not equal to play minutes, but at least Naeher was part of it all. Internationally, Naeher has 43 appearances. In 2017, she started 13 of the USWNT’s 16 matches, recorded 6 shutouts and  a 0.85 goals allowed average. Her strengths are in diving, reflexes and positioning. Naeher’s weaknesses are in handling and a lack of international starting experience. Critics will be quick to compare her to Solo and Scurry. Against Thailand on June 11th, Naeher needs to set the tone of her tournament.

Backup USWNT Goalkeepers

Obviously, it is a bad moment when a team turns to its backup goalkeeper. That means one of the following: injury, yellow/red card suspension, or poor play. U.S. fans do not want to see any of that. Top performances from Alyssa Naeher are the hope for U.S. soccer fans. Regardless, it is still important to know the goalkeepers in case of calamity or to better understand the future of the USWNT.

Ashlyn Harris | Age: 33 | Caps: 21

Ashlyn Harris (43230471532)

Ashlyn Harris is the starting goalkeeper for the Orlando Pride in the NWSL. In her 21 games in 2018, Harris recorded a save success rate of 66.7-percent and 4 clean sheets. One year prior, in 2017, Harris had a 66.7-percent save success rate and 2 clean sheets in 14 games.

Youth Standout

Though Harris is incredibly talented with a rich history of club and youth-international play, injuries stifled her career. She was a standout goalkeeper at a young age. At Satellite High, she won the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. Harris earned 39 caps for the USWNT U-19 squad. Playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels, she led them to three national titles.

Professional and International Career

After an impressive young career, Harris was taken 19th overall in the Women’s Professional Soccer Draft by the St. Louis Athletica. However, she was taken as the backup to Hope Solo. Therefore, she never played a match with them. Since then, Harris played for the Washington Freedom, Western New York Flash, FCR 2001 Duisburg (Frauen-Bundesliga), Washington Spirit, Tyresö FF (Swedish Division 1) and the Orlando Pride. Harris holds three NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships (2006, 2008, 2009), one Women’s Professional Soccer Championship (2011), one FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup Championship (2002) and one FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship (2015). She was also the 2016 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.

Internationally, Harris played as the backup to Hope Solo in the 2015 Women’s World Cup and now backs up Alyssa Naeher in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. She has 21 total caps and has yet to carve out consistent playing time. Harris also suffered a minor knee injury in April. But, she appears to be fit and ready for competition.

On a personal note, Harris’s fiance Ali Krieger is also on the 23-women USWNT roster

Adrianna Franch | Age: 28 | Caps: 1

Adrianna Franch is the starting goalkeeper for the Portland Thorns in the NWSL. In her 16 games in 2018, Franch recorded a save success rate of 73.9-percent and 3 clean sheets. One year prior, in 2017, Naeher had a 80.2-percent save success rate and 12 clean sheets in 26 games. In each season, she earned the title of NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.

Collegiate Success

Our youngest and least experienced of the USWNT goalkeepers, Adrianna Franch is exceptional. At Oklahoma State University, Franch was the seventh player in Big 12 history to earn All-Big 12 First Team in each of her four seasons. Franch’s 38 collegiate shutouts are an OSU record and sixth all time in NCAA history.

Best Goalkeeper in the NWSL

Taken sixth overall in the 2013 college draft of the NWSL by the Western New York Flash, Franch quickly impressed soccer fans. She recorded six saves in her first game and helped the Flash to an NWSL Shield in 2013. Then, after missing the 2014 NWSL season, Franch started 12 matches for the Norwegian Avaldsnes IL in the Toppserien league. They finished second place in 2015. Then, Franch found her home in Portland. Franch recorded three shutouts in just six games in 2016, aiding the Portland Thorns to an NWSL Shield. Then, Franch led the Portland Thorns to an NWSL Championship in 2017. She was the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year in back-to-back seasons. Franch is the first player to win this award twice.

Adrianna Franch 2016-09-04 (29176813590) (cropped)

Though Franch is decorated collegiately and professionally, she lacks international experience. She only has one cap to her name. Nonetheless, Franch very well could be the best goalkeeper on the roster. She plays in the same league as both Naeher and Harris, recorded better save success percentages in 2017 and 2018, and held a clean-sheet on 37.5-percent of her games with the Portland Thorns. She may be buried on the USWNT goalkeeper roster right now, but Franch is the future of this team.