The United States men’s and women’s soccer teams have had an excellent summer. The women won their fourth World Cup and continued their dominance on the international stage, while the men regained much needed respect with a 2nd place finish in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. These on-field accomplishments will be taken in over time, but it was also an important summer for agendas off the field. Most notably present throughout the World Cup was the discussion of how the men and women are paid.
After the women bask in the moment they inspired, they will enter into mediation with US Soccer to address the lawsuit related to equal pay between the men and women. The women are not paid as much as the men for the same work and level of competition. The issue is complicated by the fact that governing bodies like CONCACAF and FIFA set bonus pools for their tournaments which are outside of the decision making authority of US Soccer.
The women collectively earned $4 million for their World Cup final victory, while the men earned approximately $500,000 for their second place Gold Cup finish (The 2019 Gold Cup pool was not announced but the 2nd place finisher received $500,000 in both the 2015 and 2017 versions). The top Gold Cup payout for the last two tournaments was $1 million, meaning there was a 4-to-1 ratio established for the winners of each tournament.
FIFA estimates that over 1 billion people tuned into this iteration of the Women’s World Cup. Global viewership for the regionally focused Gold Cup is not available, but a fair comparison would be to examine last year’s Men’s World Cup. FIFA reported that total viewership reached nearly 3.6 billion. But when you consider that the men’s bonus pool was over thirteen times larger than the women’s, the rationale for such a large pay disparity falls apart. The men’s pool in 2018 was $400 million, while the total women’s pool was $30 million this year.
Restricting interest to just the United States, the scale still favors the women. The women’s quarterfinal match against France was watched by over 6.1 million people, in the awkward 3pm EST timeslot, while the English speaking comparison for the men’s quarterfinal victory over Curacao was 1.55 million on a Sunday night. Over the course of their final three games the women tallied 27 million viewers for Fox.
Conspicuously, the semifinal and final figures for the US men have been unavailable publicly. In the Seattle-Tacoma market the women pulled a 12.7 rating for the Women’s final while the men pulled a 3.0, a similar ratio the quarterfinal.
Viewership is of course not the only way to measure interest, and the women have also proven their ability to drive the bottom line. The home women’s jersey has eclipsed all sales records, men’s or women’s, for Nike, and is up over 500% versus the last World Cup on Fanatics.
While this tournament was a good sign of a rebuild for the men, it was a game changer for the US women, who only continue to reach new levels of popularity and inspire the coming generation of soccer players. Unfortunately, they must now shift to an off-field competition where not just equal pay but fair pay for women is at stake, and hopefully they will be able to use this large platform to raise the awareness of this disturbing issue.