The years-long fight for equal pay for the U.S. soccer women’s national team is now a reality after the men and women came together for landmark collective bargaining agreements that establish a groundbreaking compensation structure, and one that could have repercussions for other countries around the world.

The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association and the U.S. Men’s National Team Players Association signed separate collective bargaining agreements with the U.S. Soccer Federation, but they both contain the same terms, including making the USA the first nation to pool FIFA’s World Cup prize money to be shared between the men’s and women’s teams.

The agreements, which run through 2028, will see the USWNT players achieve equal pay, while USMNT players remain “among the highest paid in the world” according to the federation’s release, even after making significant concessions that opened the door for the shared prize money pool.

In addition to financial compensation, the women also earned equal terms for working conditions involving items such as travel budgets, training facilities and playing field surfaces.

The U.S. Soccer Federation will also be sharing a portion of commercial revenues (TV, sponsorship, etc.) with its players for the first time, incentivizing the players and federation to work more closely together to grow the sport.

World Cup prize money shared between USMNT & USWNT

It’s widely reported that U.S. Soccer will be the first national soccer federation in the world that will take FIFA’s disparate World Cup bonuses for men and women and pool them together to be shared evenly between both national teams. Some national federations opt not to share those World Cup bonus payments with players.

This represented one of the single biggest hurdles for U.S. Soccer to solve during negotiations and it required a concession from the men’s team to give way to a pooling of the prize money.

Due to the disparity in prize money dished out by FIFA between men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments — and there is no indication that is changing any time soon — the U.S. women have earned significantly less in prize money from FIFA than the men, despite outperforming the men in their respective competitions over the years.

Here is the prize money breakdown from each of the most recent World Cup tournaments — 2018 for the men and the 2019 edition for the women:

Stage Reached Prize Money
Prize Money
First Place
$38 million
$4 million
Second Place
$28 million
$2.6 million
Third Place
$24 million
$2 million
Fourth Place
$22 million
$1.6 million
$16 million
$1.45 million
Round of 16
$12 million
$1 million
Group Stage
$8 million
Preparatory Costs
$1.5 million

What might be most surprising in those prize money figures is the fact that the 2019 Women’s World Cup totals were doubled from the previous Women’s World Cup. The first Women’s World Cup to even award prize money only came in 2007.

The disparity has been an issue for a while, and while not yet resolved on a global level, it has been tackled in the United States.

How much do USWNT & USMNT players earn?

While World Cup prize money has been the most obvious obstacle in the USWNT equal pay fight, the new arrangement addresses other forms of compensation:

Equal pay under new CBAs

According to the U.S. Soccer release, the new CBAs will see the USWNT and USMNT paid in a far similar manner than ever before.

For friendly matches, both national teams will earn identical roster bonuses, appearance fees, and performance bonuses.

For World Cup matches, the two sides will earn identical game appearance fees, while other competitive matches see the two teams earn identical match bonuses.

Other financial aspects of the new CBAs

As part of the new CBA, USWNT players are giving up guaranteed base salaries which had been part of the USWNT wage structure since 2005. In return, the women are receiving benefits such as a portion of commercial, broadcast, and sponsor revenue, 401(k) retirement plans with a company match, and a fund to benefit former players during post-playing careers.

Additionally, in a significant change for women’s soccer in the USA, the U.S. Soccer Federation will no longer pay the NWSL club team wages of USWNT players — that will be the responsibility of the NWSL club.

The federation for years paid for those salaries as a way to support the fledgling women’s professional league and help keep more popular USWNT players stateside, but that arrangement will no longer exist moving forward.

Also as part of the new CBAs, the men will receive childcare benefits, something women have enjoyed for decades. As in the case of the women, this will be available to the men during national team camps, training, and on matchdays.

Finally, buried in the fine print, the USMNT players acquired the rights to their own name, image, and likeness.

USWNT fight for equal pay

The landmark agreement is the culmination of years of a legal and public relations battle by the U.S. Women’s players, often backed by their men’s team cohort.

The battle began in 2016 when a wage discrimination claim was filed with a specific U.S. government agency: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This claim was led by star players Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe.

A year later, the women’s players fired their players union chief and reorganized the union’s structure, taking matters into their own hands and receiving education on labor law and negotiating tactics. They struck a new CBA with U.S. Soccer that year, and while wages increased, the disparity remained.

That led to the gender discrimination lawsuit filed in 2019 by the USWNT’s star players, formulated as a class-action lawsuit. In the meantime, the U.S. Soccer Federation began to face growing public pressure for the situation.

Then U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro resigned in March 2020 after widespread backlash when filings from that lawsuit surfaced in which the U.S. Soccer Federation characterized “the job of MNT player carries more responsibility within U.S. Soccer than the job of WNT player.” While the USWNT ultimately lost the court case, it won the battle of public opinion, even gaining the support of president Joe Biden.

New U.S. Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former women’s national team player, was eager to bring the parties together. In November 2020, the sides reached an agreement to resolve the claims, and in February 2022, a settlement was reached that included millions in compensation and a pledge from U.S. Soccer to equalize pay.

Just three months later, that pledge was fulfilled through the ratification of the collective bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s players.

Reaction to US Soccer equal pay agreement

The new collective bargaining agreements were met with resounding applause from all across the soccer landscape.

“I am feeling extreme pride," said USWNT veteran and equal pay leader Becky Sauerbrunn. “And to be able to say finally, equal pay for equal work feels very, very good.”

Men’s CBA leader Walker Zimmerman was also heavily involved in the negotiations, and he said the men were behind the women all the way, making major concessions to achieve equal pay on both sides.

The partnership is something they’re proud of. “It hasn’t been like that in the past," said Zimmerman. “We’re excited for the partnership. It really does feel like a sense of togetherness, which will also translate off the field with the camaraderie and growing the sport.”

And the benefits go beyond just pay.

Celebrities and athletes came together to congratulate the federation and teams on the landmark deal.