An Even Playing Field: The Goal of Gender Equity in World Cup Soccer
112 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2019 Last revised: 23 Mar 2020
Date Written: August 27, 2019
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has dominated the sport since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991. Despite its success on the field, however, the team has had a contentious relationship over the last three decades with the United States Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body in the United States. The ongoing discord between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation culminated in March 2019, when twenty-eight players from the team filed a lawsuit alleging that the Federation had violated the Equal Pay Act by paying them less than it paid members of the Men’s National Team.
This Article traces the history of strife between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation. The troubled relationship is a result of the mismatch between the team’s superior results but lower pay compared to the Men’s National Team. This mismatch has its roots in competing legal and societal forces. On the one hand, Title IX caused an explosion in the participation rate for women’s soccer in the United States, which has led to the Women’s National Team’s unprecedented success. On the other hand, with the exception of the World Cup finals every four years, the viewership market for women’s soccer remains much smaller than the market for men’s soccer, which has resulted in lower revenue generation by the Women’s National Team compared to the far less successful Men’s National Team.
After explaining the history and cause of the turmoil between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation, this Article analyzes the merits of the players’ Equal Pay Act claim. The Article contends that the Federation has the stronger position on the merits of the claim, but further argues that the Federation should renegotiate the Women’s National Team’s collective bargaining agreement in light of the Federation’s mission of “gender equality.” The Article proposes specific principles that might guide that renegotiation and lead to a successful resolution of the long-standing tensions between the Women’s National Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
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