U.S. women’s soccer scores higher pay, better conditions in new labor agreement

The U.S. women’s national soccer team ratified a new five-year collective bargaining agreement Tuesday following a bitter yearlong dispute over demands for equal pay.

The deal with U.S. Soccer, the team’s governing body, outlines better working conditions, travel arrangements and accommodations, along with increased per diem stipends and match bonuses. The agreement lasts through 2021, meaning the women’s soccer team won’t have to renegotiate terms for major events, including the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The deal would allow some players to “double their incomes to between $200,000 and $300,000 in a given year — and even more in a World Cup year,” The New York Times calculated.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati hailed the agreement as an “important step” for the growth of women’s soccer.

“This agreement helps to ensure the strength of the women’s national team, provide stability and growth potential for the National Women’s Soccer League, and over time strengthen the elite player development process at the grassroots level,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

“We believe our continued partnership will ensure a bright future for our sport for years to come,” he added.

U.S. national team veteran Megan Rapinoe said she was “incredibly proud” of the women’s team throughout the process.

“While I think there is still much progress to be made for us and for women more broadly, I think the WNTPA [Women’s National Team Players Association] should be very proud of this deal and feel empowered moving forward,” she added.

The agreement follows other high-profile wage gaps in other sports, including tennis and basketball. Last week, the U.S. women’s hockey team reached a similar agreement for increased pay with their governing body after threatening to boycott the world championships.

Last year, five World Cup-winning athletes from the women’s national team — Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn — filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission highlighting the large pay gap between the women’s and men’s soccer teams. The EEOC investigation has yet to be resolved.

The women argued their work was comparable to their male counterparts, and the women’s team was consistently better ranked and more profitable.

Throughout the labor dispute, the players’ union repeatedly failed to reach common ground with U.S. Soccer, cycling through several different directors before talks made some headway.

Also notable is that the agreement does not necessarily mean equal pay, as Becky Sauerbrunn, co-captain of the women’s national team, pointed out to the Planet Fútbol podcast on Tuesday.

The U.S. women’s team has a different pay structure than the men’s team, Sauerbrunn said, adding that the team was negotiating for “equitable” pay instead.

“Equal isn’t the right word. It would be equitable, because we are asking for a different structure,” she added.

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