U.S. women soccer players reach $24 million settlement in fight for equal pay

The U.S. women's national soccer team has reached a $24 million equal-pay settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The federation also committed to equalizing future pay for women. Julie Foudy, an ESPN analyst, retired two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, joins Stephanie Sy to discuss the momentous day for women's soccer.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let's return now to the U.S. women's national soccer team and how a six-year fight over equal pay may finally have ended today.

    The team has reached a $24 million equal pay settlement with the sport's national governing body, the U.S. Soccer Federation.

    Stephanie Sy has more.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Judy, besides the compensation, the Soccer Federation has promised equal pay between men's and women's national teams in future competitions, including the World Cup.

    That has generated a lot of excitement, even though the deal won't be final until a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified by the players association.

    For a look at this big step toward equity, I am joined by Julie Foudy, retired two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist. She is now a sports commentator for ESPN.

    Julie Foudy, it's a pleasure to have you on this momentous day for women's soccer.

    I just have to get your first impressions and reactions. Who have you been talking to? Were you jumping for joy when you heard the news?

  • Julie Foudy, ESPN:

    Who have I not been talking to? We have got a '99ers text chain going on. Abby Wambach was just texting thanking the older gals for their contributions as well.

    So, it's a glorious day, and I don't think just for women's soccer. I think it has so much more meaning beyond women's sports and what this current group has stood up for, has spoken up for, and what they're doing to really, I think, set a global standard for how we should be treated, and particularly as it relates to women's sports.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    You talk about the '99 team.

    For those folks out there that may not remember the resounding glories of the U.S. women's team from 1999, culminating in the World Cup win, of course, at the Rose Bowl, you were part of that team.

    Just talk to us about the adversity you faced over the years, given how winning your team and the two decades of teams beyond that were, how big that disparity was between the merits and what you had achieved and the pay.

  • Julie Foudy:

    Well, back in the day, when we were playing, way back in the day, we used to say we were fighting for equitable pay, not equal pay.

    And back then, it was, hey, we just want to be able to make a living. We're not asking for what the men are getting. But we can't live off $10 a day. We can't live like we are and still continue to play. And so that was the fight back in the day for better marketing, more staffing, more support, more grassroots support, all those things, that of course, now today, the fight is for equal pay, as it should be.

    But, yes, it goes back decades to where we have been doing a lot of rattling for many years of U.S. soccer. And I think the great news in today, and with the settlement of the lawsuit, is, as you said, Stephanie, at the top, it's going to be extended to the CBA.

    So this lawsuit doesn't actually get settled until the collective bargaining agreement gets settled. And that's what's going to guarantee and lock in that equal pay for future generations. And I think that's what we're so excited about, as players, as athletes who have been fighting for this. I know there's a lot of women out there in other sports as well who are equally excited, a lot of women in general.

    So I think that is what really is going to stick with all of us, is the equal pay going forward.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Well, just to remind viewers, just in the last few years, it was players like Megan Rapinoe who filed suit about pay discrimination in recent years.

    What do you think about the way this all came about today, that it ended up being a settlement, and not a court ruling, a settlement between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the women's team?

  • Julie Foudy:

    I think, in large part, there's a lot of thanks that should go out to Cindy Parlow Cone, who's the president of U.S. Soccer, a former teammate of mine from that '99 team, who really led the charge in wanting to get this settled.

    I think there were a lot of people who would argue the U.S. Soccer didn't have to settle. They actually won the last ruling where the court had actually dismissed the economic claims for equal pay on the women's side. And so they didn't have to make this move in U.S. Soccer.

    But I do think it speaks largely about where U.S. Soccer wants to go going forward, where Cindy Parlow wants to go, and the importance of having a woman in that position leading all of U.S. Soccer in this. It's a volunteer position, and she has put in a ton of work.

    And beyond the players in the current team for how much they have had to fight, I think she should get a lot of credit for setting the way for equal pay going forward.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And, of course, she is coming up for reelection, which is not lost on the context here.

    So you have equal pay now. It had earlier been worked out things like working conditions, transport to tournaments and matches for the women. What else is left in the equity fight for women's soccer?

  • Julie Foudy:

    Well, the big sticking point has always been that FIFA World Cup prize money.

    And for the men, if they win a World Cup, it is manyfold more than what the women make. So, for example, if the men won a World Cup, the last World Cup, the men's team got $38 million. If the women win a World Cup, they only collect $4 million. And so that gap has been something that U.S. Soccer and the women have been fighting for with their success.

    And so what it means is, actually, for the first time — and I think this is huge as well — the men have agreed — and, obviously, this is still to be hashed out with the collective bargaining agreement, but they have agreed that they're going to split that evenly with the women. And that will be equal.

    FIFA hasn't agreed to that. The men and the women have come to an agreement with U.S. Soccer and say, we're not going forward without that piece of the puzzle, which has been the last sticking point, being equal.

    And so I think the men as well deserve a ton of credit, because they're setting a standard, I hope, that a lot of other men's teams will follow, in that they're saying, hey, if FIFA is not going to take care of it, we're going to help the women here, because we're going to benefit by their success, their commercial success, and all those other things when we all collectively share that pot.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Julie Foudy, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA world champion, thank you so much for joining us with your insights on this momentous day for women's soccer.

  • Julie Foudy:

    Thanks, Stephanie.

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