US women's soccer games now generate more revenue than men's—but the players still earn less

U.S. women's soccer games have generated more revenue than U.S. men's games over the past three years.

That's according to audited financial statements from the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) obtained by The Wall Street Journal. In 2016, women's games generated $1.9 million more in revenue than men's games. From 2016 to 2018, women's games generated approximately $50.8 million in revenue, compared with $49.9 million for men's games.

The Journal report notes that the "ability of the women's team to generate gate revenues that equals or exceeds the men's team is an important battleground," and central to an ongoing lawsuit filed against the USSF by 28 members of the U.S. women's national soccer team in March.

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images
United States' forward Carli Lloyd (C), celebrates with teammates Mallory Pugh and Morgan Brian after scoring a goal during the France 2019 Women's World Cup Group F football match between USA and Chile, on June 16, 2019, at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris.

The lawsuit states if the men's and women's teams won each of the 20 non-tournament games they are contractually required to play, women's team players would earn a maximum of $99,000 ($4,950 per game), while men's team players would earn $263,320 ($13,166 per game). The suit also states that from 2013 to 2016 women players earned $15,000 for making the national team while the men earned $55,000 in 2014 and $68,750 in 2018.

The formal response to the lawsuit by the USSF claims that any differences in pay are "based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex."

According to The Journal, this difference can largely be attributed to ticket sales. The USSF sells broadcast and sponsorship rights for the men's and women's teams together, and as a result, it can be difficult to determine the exact broadcast value of the two teams.

"I don't know how you quantify that," David Neal, vice president of production and executive producer of FIFA World Cup on Fox, tells the Journal. "But right now the shining star of U.S. Soccer is the U.S. women's national team. These women are heroes and I think that carries great value."

According to the lawsuit, the Women's National Team Player's Association (WNTPA) has proposed a revenue-sharing model to "test the USSF's 'market realities' theory," describing a proposal that would tie player compensation to revenue generated by the women's national team for USSF.

The men's national team has issued a statement of support for the women's team lawsuit against the USSF and for this revenue-sharing model.

"The United States National Soccer Team Players Association fully supports the efforts of the US Women's National Team Players to achieve equal pay," reads the statement. "Specifically, we are committed to the concept of a revenue-sharing model to address the US Soccer Federation's 'market realities' and find a way towards fair compensation."

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