American Football Signs Historic Equal Pay Agreement in Washington, DC

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Representatives of the US men’s and women’s national teams signed historic collective bargaining agreements with US Soccer on Tuesday, formally ending a long and sometimes bitter battle over equal pay.

The association announced in May that it had made separate agreements with the players’ unions about contracts that run until 2028.

The new contracts include identical pay structures for performances and tournament wins, revenue sharing and an equitable distribution of World Cup prize money.

A signing ceremony took place after the women’s friendly against Nigeria at Audi Field in Washington, which included Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

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Members of US Soccer and the US Women’s National Team Players Association hold up an Equal Pay jersey after signing a collective bargaining agreement providing equal pay between men’s and women’s national soccer teams at Audi Field September 6, 2022, n Washington, D.C.
(Ira L. Black/Corbis/Getty Images)

“I have to give a lot of credit to everyone involved, the women’s national team and their PA, the men’s national team and their PA, and everyone at US Soccer. There were so many people who helped, who worked together to make this possible” said U.S. soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone, herself a former national team player. “And it wouldn’t be pushed over the line without the men jumping in and being on board with equal pay.”

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After years of fighting for fair pay and treatment, American women filed a federal lawsuit for gender discrimination against American football in 2019. The lawsuit attracted international attention, with fans chanting “Equal Pay” as the United States won the Women’s World Cup final in France.

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In February, the two sides settled the lawsuit, with US Soccer agreeing to pay the women $24 million. But the settlement was conditional on reaching new employment contracts with both teams.

The men played under the conditions of a collective labor agreement that expired in December 2018. The collective labor agreement for women expired at the end of March, but talks continued after the lawsuit was settled.

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The sticking point in the negotiations was the World Cup prize money, which is based on a team’s progress in the most prestigious football tournament. While the American women were successful on the international stage with consecutive World Cup titles, differences in FIFA prize money meant they took home far less than the men’s winners. American women received a $110,000 bonus for winning the 2019 World Cup; the American men would have received $407,000 if they had won in 2018.

Crystal Dunn, center, signs a collective bargaining agreement providing equal pay for the US men's and women's national soccer teams at Audi Field September 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Crystal Dunn, center, signs a collective bargaining agreement providing equal pay for the US men’s and women’s national soccer teams at Audi Field September 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
(Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The unions agreed to pool FIFA payments for the men’s World Cup later this year and next year’s women’s World Cup, as well as for the 2026 and 2027 tournaments.

Because the national men’s team players currently play in competition, the CBA was signed by USNSTPA director Mark Levinstein. Women’s players Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn and Sam Mewis also signed, along with USWNTPA Executive Director Becca Roux.

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Sauerbrunn addressed the crowd.

“I want to thank you all for the support, all the social media posts, the messages of support, the chants of ‘Equal Pay’ in really funny moments, showing up at our competitions. You make a difference, and you are really, really the best fans in the world,” she said.

Members of US Soccer, the US Women's National Team Players Association and other dignitaries pose for a photo after signing a collective bargaining agreement providing equal pay for men's and women's national soccer teams at Audi Field September 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Members of US Soccer, the US Women’s National Team Players Association and other dignitaries pose for a photo after signing a collective bargaining agreement providing equal pay for men’s and women’s national soccer teams at Audi Field September 6, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
(Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Former players Kristine Lilly, Briana Scurry and Lori Lindsey also attended the on-field ceremony after the US defeated Nigeria 2-1.

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After the CBAs were accepted, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to the settlement in August. A hearing to finalize it is scheduled for December.