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US Women World Cup win fuels fight for equal pay

In March, the players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Credit: AP Photo/David Vincent
US players celebrate their victory in the Women's World Cup final soccer match between US and The Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, outside Lyon, France, Sunday, July 7, 2019. US won 2:0.

When fans cheered for the U.S. Women's World Cup win, one chant rose above the rest: "Equal pay." 

In March, the players filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation claiming that they are paid less than the men's team and are not given as much support. The conversation is at the forefront once again after Sunday's win. 

"They're just arguing that they should be paid equally for the same job," said Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. 

The Associated Press reports it's hard to do a dollar-to-dollar salary comparison because the teams have separate collective bargaining agreements and different pay structure. 

But the lawsuit claims a top-tier female player would make only 38% of a similarly situated men's player, according to the Washington Post. 

"The whole argument about paying the women equal to the men and all the pieces of the puzzle that come into play, it's complicated. Because you've got sponsorships, and viewership, and TV revenue, and merchandise sales,  and ticket sales and all the different pieces that go into this argument that the normal person doesn't understand," LaVoi said. 

The soccer federation denies the claims in the lawsuit, saying the pay of men and women players is "based on differences in aggregate revenue generated." 

The Wall Street Journal did an audit that found that from 2016 to 2018, women's matches generated about $900,000 more in revenue than men's games. But the Washington Post points out that number favors the men when including 2015. 

FIFA will award $30 million in prize money for the Women's World Cup; the men received $400 million last year.

In the states, Sunday's World Cup final drew a larger audience than last year's men's final with a 20% higher rating. However, the U.S. men's team wasn't in that final. Looking worldwide, the 2018 Men's World Cup captured over 3.5 billion viewers in 2018. FIFA estimates this year's Women's World Cup will have drawn one billion viewers, lower than the men's but a big increase from the 750 million who watched on TV in 2015. 

"I think that the U.S. women's national soccer team has done an excellent job, masterful job, of using the biggest platform in their sport, perhaps in the world, to leverage and argue for what they deserve," LaVoi said. 

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