U.S. Soccer Claims Male Players Are More Skilled Than Women, Deserve More Pay


Mar 12, 2020


The U.S. women's national soccer team celebrates their 2019 World Cup win. Image Credit: Getty Images

Since publication, Carlos Cordeiro has stepped down as the President of U.S Soccer in lieu of the pay equity dispute. Now, U.S Soccer Vice-President Cindy Parlow-Cone will take over from him and serve as President.

The U.S. Soccer Federation, in a move that spurred instant public backlash from fans and sponsors, claimed in a legal filing against the U.S. Women’s National Team’s pay discrimination lawsuit, that male soccer players required “a higher level of skill” and carried “more responsibility” than the women players, and therefore deserve more pay. 

In March 2019, the women’s national team filed an equal-pay lawsuit against its boss, U.S. Soccer, alleging “institutionalized gender discrimination” that “has caused, contributed to, and perpetuated gender-based pay disparities” against the women players in “nearly every aspect of their employment,” ESPN reports. Since then, U.S. Soccer has attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed before it’s set to move to trial on May 5.

In the most recent filing toward that goal, U.S. Soccer claimed “it is undisputed that the job of [Men’s National Team] player requires materially more strength and speed than the job of [Women’s National Team] player,” NPR reports. The filing also cited biological differences and “indisputable science” to prove the men’s team’s advanced capabilities as compared to the women’s team. 

The women’s side has won four World Cups to date; the men’s side has won none and have failed to even qualify for the most recent 2018 World Cup. While the pay disparity between the two teams’ players is a complicated one to explain owing to their differential contracts with U.S. Soccer, it’s safe to say the men make more from almost all revenue streams — from World Cup appearance fees to bonuses. 

U.S. Soccer, in an attempt to patronize the women’s side, has adopted several insulting tactics to get the lawsuit dismissed so far — according to documents filed in February, a U.S. Soccer lawyer had asked World Cup Champion and Olympic gold medalist Carli Lloyd if the women’s team could be competitive against the men’s team; Lloyd had responded, “Shall we fight it out to see who wins and then we get paid more?” Another lawyer had asked women’s side forward Alex Morgan if the men’s team played with more skill, to which Morgan had responded, “No, it’s a different skill.” 

Related on The Swaddle:

All The Arguments You Need: to Advocate for Equal Pay In Sport

The federation’s constant insinuations that the women’s team is somehow less than the men’s team, in an attempt to get away with not paying the women their due, is a characteristic way in which the organization has treated women’s soccer since its official inception, U.S. Soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe said in a match interview. It also echoes tired, sexist arguments that attempt to justify the broader gender pay gap across most fields.

Even after U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro apologized for the language used in the most recent filing, and said “the offense and pain caused by language in this week’s court filing … did not reflect the values of our Federation or our tremendous admiration of our Women’s National Team,” Rapinoe brushed the apology off: “We don’t buy it…That wasn’t for us. That was for fans, media, sponsors…every negotiation, those undertones are there, that we’re lesser.”

It’s not just the players that are blasting U.S. Soccer for attempting to undermine the women players — major sponsors such as Budweiser, Visa, and Coca Cola are condemning the federation for its “unacceptable and offensive comments.” A Coca Cola spokesperson told BuzzFeed that brand representatives are meeting with U.S. Soccer officials to “express their concerns.”

Meanwhile, the women’s team, even while fighting for their rightfully owed $67 million in backpay from U.S. Soccer, has shown it will not stop playing or winning. On March 11, they won the SheBelieves Cup championship after beating Japan 3-1 — while wearing their jerseys inside out to hide the U.S. Soccer Federation logo, but still displaying their four World Cup stars. After the win, Morgan delivered a scathing rebuttal to U.S. Soccer’s claims in a tweet: “Takes skill to lift that trophy too.”


Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.


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