Bonus pay gap revealed between US men’s and women’s football teams

Bonus pay gap revealed between US men’s and women’s football teams

The US women’s national soccer team (USWNT) earned $90,000 in bonuses for advancing to the quarter-finals of the World Cup last week, but that sum would have been much bigger ($550,000) for their male counterparts.

The difference arises from a system that rewards the men’s team more in World Cup bonuses and offers them a set of bonuses not given to the USWNT.

Each member of the women’s team received $37,500 for making the 23-player World Cup roster. Had the men qualified for the 2018 World Cup, they could have earned $68,750 each.

Whilst the US Soccer Federation does pay its female players fixed salaries, male players are much more reliant on bonuses. However, the bonus system rewards the men’s team far beyond the possible earnings of the USWNT.

If the men’s team had succeeded in reaching the World Cup, they would also have received $6,875 per game, a maximum of $85,599 from group stage points won, and an additional $195,652 for advancing to the knockout rounds. The women’s team don’t get any of those bonuses.

Not only are the women’s team more successful on the field, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the USWNT’s games also garner more revenue. Between 2016 and 2018, the women generated $50.8 million in revenue, while the men brought in $49.9 million.

The Federation partially blames FIFA—football’s governing body—for the disparity. FIFA offers significantly different prizes for the winners of the men’s and women’s World Cups, which US Soccer in turn distributes to the players. FIFA’s total prize money available to the men in Russia in 2018 was $400m, while it is offering just $30m for the 2019 women’s tournament in France.

Solomon W. Polachek has written about the gender wage gap for IZA World of Labor. He says “pay variation between workers is the norm rather than the exception.” However, “[w]hile valid economic arguments can explain some of this variation, accounting for why certain demographic groups (such as women) consistently earn less than men is problematic. If the pattern of lower female wages arises because of discrimination, then the economy is inadequately using a large group of valuable potential employees. On the other hand, if unequal economic outcomes result from differing individual choices (despite equal opportunity), then government intervention could lead to a distorted allocation of resources. This results in inefficiencies within the economy. In this case, the economy suffers; and in the long run, women are not helped. Thus, understanding the source of earnings differences is important.”

In March, the USWNT filed a lawsuit against US Soccer alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The two sides will enter mediation after the tournament’s conclusion.

Read more IZA World of Labor articles on the gender divide.