Wednesday, February 2
U.S. women will be paid as much as men
Associated Press

 The boycott is officially over for the Women's World Cup champions.

The U.S. women's national soccer team, which missed three games in the wage dispute, agreed to a five-year contract that raises the minimum monthly salary for star players from $3,150 to $5,000, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Tuesday. For the first time in soccer, the deal gives women on a national team the same salary as men.

The team, which began training Tuesday under new coach April Heinrichs, plays an exhibition game against Norway on Feb. 6 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in preparation for the Sydney Olympics in September.

Mia Hamm, perhaps the best-known player on the World Cup champions, said the boycott was worth it.

"This is something we all felt strongly in. This is something we all believed in," she said at a news conference also attended by Carla Overbeck and her 2-year-old son, Jackson.

Players who had been getting $2,000 to $3,150 a month get at least $5,000 a month through the Olympics in September, or $2,000 a game if they play in three or more games in a month.

In addition, each player gets bonuses of $1,000 to $2,000 per win and $500 to $1,000 per tie for exhibition games.

The entire team would split a $100,000 bonus for reaching the semifinals of the Olympics, $150,000 more for winning the bronze medal, $300,000 more for winning the silver and $700,000 more for winning the gold.

There also are provisions for guaranteed money for victory tours if the team is successful in the Sydney Games, and the next World Cup, in 2002 or 2003.

The monthly guarantees would disappear with the start of a proposed women's professional league, much as they did for the men's national team players after the start of Major League Soccer in 1996.

"The players deserve a better deal," said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women's Sports Foundation. "I'm not so sure that this agreement is the best one U.S. Soccer could have offered. I think there is still room for improvement, greater respect and more support."

Women cut from the team would get three months severance pay. To put the tentative deal into effect, the women might form a union.

"Some of us might be finished next year, the year after that, so this contract will outlive us," Hamm said.

The game-appearance money and bonuses match the deal being negotiated with the men's players, who finished last in the 32-nation field at the 1998 World Cup. A clause in the contract guarantees the women the same percentage of money as the men.

But the big difference is payments from FIFA, soccer's governing body. While FIFA gave the USSF $800,000 for each of the three games the men played at the 1998 World Cup, it didn't give the federation any money for the women's tournament.

Players boycotted the Australia Cup earlier this month, and the USSF sent a team of college-age players, who won the tournament. Lopiano said those players had agreed to honor the boycott in future games, forcing the USSF to negotiate.

Ahead is Sunday's game against Norway, the 1995 Women's World Cup champion. It will be the first for the veterans under new coach April Heinrichs.

"I think she's going to set the bar even higher," Hamm said.

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