U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro contended Monday that analysis of federation finances showed that it paid members of the women's national team millions of dollars more than members of the men's national team over a period of nearly a decade.
Responding publicly for the first time to weeks of public and even congressional criticism since the U.S. won the Women's World Cup while national team players are in the midst of suing the federation for gender discrimination, Cordeiro sent an open letter to federation members that included the results of what he termed extensive analysis of 10 years of financial data.
Among the conclusions, which U.S. Soccer said were verified by an independent accounting firm, are that women's players were paid $34.1 million by the federation from 2010 to 2018 in salaries and bonuses (2018 is the most recent fiscal year for which information was available). That also includes the National Women's Soccer League salaries paid by U.S. Soccer for national team-contracted players. Members of the men's national team were paid $26.4 million by the federation over the same period, the analysis concluded.
"Just as our WNT players have shared their perspective, I strongly believe that you -- as U.S. Soccer members, stakeholders, sponsors and partners -- deserve to hear ours," Cordeiro wrote Monday. "Now that the Women's World Cup is behind us, a common understanding of key facts will also help advance our shared work to grow women's soccer in America as well as the larger national discussion about equality."
The men's and women's teams operate with separate collective bargaining agreements and with separate pay structures.
Cordeiro's letter stipulated that the totals do not include money received by U.S. Soccer from FIFA for World Cup bonuses. With that money included, federation analysis said that the men earned $41 million for the same nine-year period, compared to $39.7 million for the women.
U.S. Soccer contends that it should not be held responsible for the inequity in FIFA prize money, with the winner of the men's tournament in Russia last year receiving more ($38 million) than the total prize pool for the 24 teams in the recently concluded women's tournament. Cordeiro said he continues to push FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the sport's global governing body to increase prize compensation for the signature event in the women's game.
As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Soccer and lawyers representing the 28 players who filed suit in March have agreed to mediation. Cordeiro said he chose this time to commission and release the financial analysis because the federation did not want to disrupt the team's preparation for and participation in the Women's World Cup.
"This is a sad attempt by the USSF to quell the overwhelming tide of support the USWNT has received from everyone from fans to sponsors to the United States Congress," Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the players, said in response to the letter. "The USSF has repeatedly admitted that it does not pay the women equally and that it does not believe the women even deserve to be paid equally. This is why they use words like 'fair' and 'equitable,' not 'equal,' in describing pay.
"The numbers the USSF uses are utterly false, which, among other things, inappropriately include the NWSL salaries of the players to inflate the women's players' compensation. Any apples-to-apples comparison shows that the men earn far more than the women."
The United States National Soccer Team Players Association released a statement supporting the U.S. women's team's quest for equal pay.
"The USMNT players were not impressed with US Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro's letter made public on Monday. The Federation downplays contributions to the sport when it suits them. This is more of the same from a Federation that is constantly in disputes and litigation and focuses on increasing revenue and profits without any idea how to use that money to grow the sport. One way to increase profit unfairly is to refuse to pay national team players a fair share of the revenue they generate."
While broadcasting and sponsorship revenue doesn't differentiate between the men's and women's teams, U.S. Soccer also pointed to ticket revenues as evidence in its favor.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that women's games produced more total revenue than men's games in the three years after the U.S. won the 2015 Women's World Cup. U.S. Soccer countered Monday that from 2009 to 2019, the women's game produced a net loss -- ticket sales minus expenses -- of $27,544,953 compared to $3,130,980 for the men over the same period.
U.S. Soccer has faced significant public criticism for its stance on pay in the wake of the Women's World Cup, beginning with large numbers of fans in the stadium in Lyon, France, chanting "equal pay" minutes after the final against the Netherlands. A week after the final, Procter & Gamble, an official sponsor of U.S. Soccer, took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times in support of the players and pledged more than $500,000 to the players' association.
Congress has also weighed in to support the players in recent weeks.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, introduced a bill earlier this month that would deny federal funds for the 2026 Men's World Cup, to be hosted jointly by the United States, Canada and Mexico, until the American federation agrees to pay its men's and women's teams equally. Last week, Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, introduced a similar bill in the House.
"The USSF fact sheet is not a 'clarification.' It is a ruse," Levinson said. "Here is what they cannot deny: For every game a man plays on the MNT, he makes a higher base salary payment than a woman on the WNT. For every comparable win or tie, his bonus is higher. That is the very definition of gender discrimination. For the USSF to believe otherwise is disheartening, but it only increases our determination to obtain true equal pay. If the USSF cannot agree to this at the upcoming mediation, we will see them in the court of law and the court of public opinion."
The U.S. women play their first game since the World Cup on Saturday against Ireland at the Rose Bowl, site of the 1999 World Cup final that cemented the team's place in the mainstream sporting consciousness.