Soccer players on U.S. men’s and women’s national teams get pay equity for the first time

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced a historic deal Wednesday to ensure equal pay between the men's and women's players. U.S. soccer became the first national team to equalize pay and bonuses in the sport, including for World Cup play. Briana Scurry, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, 1999 World Cup champion and author of the forthcoming book, “My Greatest Save," joins Geoff Bennett to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. Soccer Federation announced a historic deal today to ensure equal pay between the men's and women's players.

    U.S. Soccer becomes the first national team to equalize pay and bonuses in the sport, including for World Cup play.

    Geoff Bennett has the details.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Judy, for years, the pay disparities between the men's and the more successful women's team have been the source of lawsuits and disputes. The women's team has won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals. The U.S. men have not won the Cup yet or a medal in the modern era, and they have not been to the Olympics since 2008.

    But now the U.S. soccer teams will pool all the World Cup money and other pay and divide it equally.

    For some perspective on this change, I'm joined by Briana Scurry. She's a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a 1999 World Cup champion. She's also the author of the forthcoming book "My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey of a World Champion Goalkeeper."

    It's so great to have you here with us. Thanks for your time. Thanks for coming in.

  • Briana Scurry, Former Goalkeeper, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team:

    Thanks so much for having me. It's fantastic.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    So, U.S. Soccer is now doing something that no other Soccer Federation does, pooling this World Cup money between the men's and the women's team and then splitting it equally.

    This has been a long time coming. From where you sit, what was the tipping point? What was responsible for this change?

  • Briana Scurry:

    Well, first of all, it has been a long time coming. It's been almost three decades in this fight.

    And so I think what the tipping point was, it was actually twofold. One was Cindy Parlow Cone becoming the president of U.S. Soccer Federation. As a former teammate of mine, she played, I think, about 10 years on the national team, and really, truly understood the problem and really wanted to make a difference and make it happen.

    And she was able to convince the board of the U.S. Soccer Federation and then also bring together the men's players as well and have the two teams discuss it and everybody be on board. And I think the collaboration initiative that she put forward was really the thing that made it happen.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    You are easily one of the best goalkeepers in soccer history, period, huge star of the sport.

    You have also sacrificed a lot for the sport. You suffered a brain injury in 2010 that cut short your career.

    Taking all of that into consideration. How do you feel in this moment? Are you excited, or are you not so excited because it shouldn't have taken this long?

  • Briana Scurry:

    That's a fantastic question.

    When I found out about it this morning, I was thrilled, because it's been such a long road. I mean, fighting for something for 25, 30 years, you really start to think that it's not ever going to happen.

    And, sure enough, here it is. And it's true equal pay. It's not just some kind of makeshift situation to make it seem that way. It truly is. You have agreement on both sides. You have exactly what's going to happen in this agreement. And you have a great time for this to happen right now.

    And so I'm just really happy. I'm excited. I'm so proud of all the players like myself who laid the foundation in the previous CBAs, the collective bargaining agreements, from the past, and the current players, who really took it to another level by doing lawsuits. And that really helped the ball move as well.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Yes.

  • Briana Scurry:

    And so I'm just really excited that we're finally there.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    In preparing to speak with you, I was struck by something I found in my research, that the men's World Cup winner in 2018, France, they took home $38 million.

    The U.S. women just the next year, when they won, took home $4 million.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Yes, that is — therein lies the rub, right?

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Yes.

  • Briana Scurry:

    That was — the World Cup pay disparity was the main issue that was at hand.

    The U.S. Soccer Federation couldn't really do anything about what FIFA would or wouldn't do by how much they paid. And so I think Cindy Parlow Cone was real instrumental in going to the men's players, Walker Zimmerman, in particular, one of the leaders of that team, and saying, hey, how can we make this better? Are you in?

    And they had many discussions. Didn't just roll over and say, sure, but this — did the right thing and decided to have a more unified front, and we were able to get it done.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    We have about a minute-and-a-half left.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Sure.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Is this framework, can this be rolled out elsewhere? This is precedent-setting in this country, but can other countries do this?

  • Briana Scurry:

    I really think they can.

    I think, in Europe, in particular, countries like Germany, France, maybe England, the men's teams can get together with the women's teams. I know the sport has been over there a lot longer and the highlight of the countries that I mentioned, but I really think this can potentially be done. I think we're going to obviously — we're obviously the first ones to see how it goes.

    But I really do think it's possible to roll it out elsewhere.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    The men's team, the U.S. men's team, as you rightly pointed out, they had to give back…

  • Briana Scurry:

    Yes.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    … or basically turn over some of their earnings.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Sure.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    What was it like getting to that point?

  • Briana Scurry:

    I think the turning point was, the men were sitting in on some of the negotiations that the women were having with U.S. Soccer, really getting a feel for what it was like to be on that side of the table, and decided to have more empathy and understanding.

    And, also, the men make quite a bit more money from their club teams. So they get their club team fees and payments and salaries that are a lot higher than their national team salary. So I think it made it a lot more easy for them to make that adjustment.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And it was the U.S. women's team that put soccer on the global map for this country.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Yes, it was. Thank you for saying it.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Geoff Bennett:

    It's a real honor to speak with you.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Thank you.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Briana Scurry, thanks for coming in.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Thank you.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Great to see you.

  • Briana Scurry:

    Thanks for having me.

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