US Soccer says it has offered men, women identical contracts

Sep 14, 2021, 2:14 AM | Updated: 3:21 pm
OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates as Portland Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby, left, ...

OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe, right, celebrates as Portland Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby, left, holds the ball after Rapinoe scored a goal on a penalty kick during the first half of an NWSL soccer match, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Soccer Federation said it had offered identical contract proposals Tuesday to the players’ associations for the men’s and women’s national teams, and the governing body said it would refuse to agree to a deal in which World Cup prize money is not equalized.

The unions for the men and women are separate. Under federal labor law, they have no obligation to bargain jointly or to agree to similar terms.

The men’s contract expired in December 2018. The women’s agreement runs through this December.

“U.S. Soccer firmly believes that the best path forward for all involved, and for the future of the sport in the United States, is a single pay structure for both senior national teams,” the USSF said in a statement. “This proposal will ensure that USWNT and USMNT players remain among the highest-paid senior national team players in the world, while providing a revenue sharing structure that would allow all parties to begin anew and share collectively in the opportunity that combined investment in the future of U.S. Soccer will deliver over the course of a new CBA.”

The men’s and women’s unions did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the women players suing the federation, declined to comment.

After the USSF asked the men’s union last week to voluntarily equalize World Cup bonus money paid to the federation by FIFA, former men’s national team players declined comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Items currently in the women’s contract, such as pay for players in the National Women’s Soccer League and maternity and pregnancy leave and pay, would not necessarily be dropped from USSF proposals, the federation said.

Players led by Alex Morgan sued the USSF in March 2019, contending they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement compared to what the men’s team receives under its agreement that expired in December 2018. The women asked for more than $64 million in damages plus $3 million in interest under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles threw out the pay claim in May 2020, ruling the women rejected a pay-to-play structure similar to the one in the men’s agreement and accepted greater base salaries and benefits than the men. He allowed their allegation of discriminatory working conditions to go to trial.

The women asked the 9th Circuit to overrule the trial court’s ruling and put their wage claim back on track. A three-judge panel is likely to hear oral arguments late this year or in early 2022.

FIFA awarded $400 million in prize money for the 32 teams at the 2018 men’s World Cup, including $38 million to champion France. It awarded $30 million for the 24 teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, including $4 million to the U.S. after the Americans won their second straight title.

FIFA has increased the total to $440 million for the 2022 men’s World Cup, and its president, Gianni Infantino, has proposed FIFA double the women’s prize money to $60 million for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, in which FIFA has increased the teams to 32.

“U.S. Soccer will not agree to any collective bargaining agreement that does not take the important step of equalizing FIFA World Cup prize money,” the federation said. “U.S. Soccer believes that the best way to achieve these important goals is by the women’s and men’s players’ associations coming together to negotiate one contract. However, if the players’ associations choose to continue to negotiate separately as they have to date, U.S. Soccer will invite the USWNTPA to sit in on the negotiations with the USNSTPA and vice versa, in the interest of full transparency.”

Most federations frame their payments to players for World Cups on the FIFA amounts.

Under their labor contract, U.S. men got $55,000 each for making the 2014 World Cup roster, then split $4.3 million for earning four points in the group stage and reaching the knockout stage. That calculated to just under $187,000 per player.

The U.S. women split $862,500 for making the roster and $2.53 million for winning the 2019 World Cup, which came to $147,500 per player. If they had performed equivalently to the men, the bonus for each under their deal would have been $37,500. The women also receive payments for a post-World Cup tour that they split: $350,000 per game if they won, $300,000 if they finished second and $250,000 if they were third.

The deals also have different bonus structures for qualifying.

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US Soccer says it has offered men, women identical contracts