The team’s lawsuit alleging pay discrimination against the U.S. Soccer Federation has done much to define its identity. A nearly perfect run through the World Cup has been widely interpreted as vindication of the merits of its case, so much so that fans chanted “equal pay” after the U.S. victory in the final over the Netherlands and booed the head of FIFA, the sponsor of the World Cup, during the trophy ceremony.
It’s not to take anything away from the women’s achievement — they never trailed the entire tournament — to note that the equal-pay complaint is almost entirely bunk.
It is true that the American women, who sweat and practice as much as their male compatriots (perhaps more, given their superior results), don’t make as much. But the women’s game isn’t as popular or profitable, which fundamentally drives pay.
The total prize money for the women’s 2019 World Cup was $30 million, with the champion taking away about $4 million. The total prize money for the men’s 2018 World Cup was $400 million, with the champions winning $38 million.
This seems blatantly unfair, until you take into account the completely different viewership and revenue from the two events. FIFA raked in more than $6 billion from the 2018 men’s World Cup. The women’s 2019 World Cup has been projected, when all is said and done, to make about $130 million.
The women’s tournament this year may have had about a billion viewers across all platforms, nothing to sneeze at. But the 2018 men’s World Cup had more than a billion viewers just for the final game.