Ironic potential beneficiary of FIFA’s equal pay ‘ambition’: The U.S. men’s national team

FRISCO, TX - FEB 22: Becky Sauerbrunn of the USA holds the American Pennant during the SheBelieves Cup match between Brazil and the USA at Toyota Stadium on February 22, 2023 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
Becky Sauerbrunn holds the USA pennant during the SheBelieves Cup game against Brazil at Toyota Stadium February 22 in Frisco, Texas. (James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

The contentious labor battle that has rocked American football for years has been backed up in a maddening, seemingly unshakable injustice: FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, paid participants in the men’s World Cup many times more than those in the women’s World Cup.

So, as always, women fought for better treatment. It was the US women’s team that had to fight for equal pay. They won it last year along with the US men. development of a scheme for pooling World Cup prize money with men and take equal shares. It was a win for both groups of players, who became the two highest paid national teams in the world, regardless of gender, but especially for women, who were looking to make millions of dollars on top of what they would otherwise have earned from FIFA. .

That is, until Thursday, when FIFA president Gianni Infantino spoke of his own “path to equal pay.”

At the annual FIFA Congress, he spoke of his “ambition” to offer equal prize money at the 2026 and 2027 men’s and women’s World Cups.

It’s a “goal,” as Infantino called it, that will have an ironic beneficiary: the United States.MNT.

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Both US teams, to be precise, would equally benefit from FIFA education. But their own agreement, originally intended primarily to support USWNT, could eventually boost USMNT even further.

Last year, the two-player associations and US Soccer entered into an agreement whereby they would pool winnings from the 2022 and 2023 World Cups and give 45% to the men, 45% to the women, and 10% to the federation. In 2026 and 2027, the distribution will be 40%, 40% and 20%.

The goal was to manually close the FIFA gap, which many expected to be $440 million for men’s teams in 2022, compared to $60 million for women’s teams in 2023. The popular assumption was that even if the USMNT failed and the USWNT won, the men would share with the women. There is no wording in their nearly identical collective bargaining agreements to explain the possibility that FIFA itself will equalize the prize money. Multiple sources have confirmed to Sportzshala Sports that there are no provisions that could change the pooling scheme if FIFA drastically changes its payouts. After all, this scenario was once outlandish.

Not anymore.

Now after female players and FIFPRO, the union’s umbrella organization, campaigned for an increase in prize money., Infantino talks about “embarking on a historic journey for women’s football and equality”. He speaks, in particular, of “equality in pay for the men’s and women’s World Cup 2026 and World Cup 27.” This is the goal we set,” he said on Thursday.

With 48 teams competing in the men’s World Cup by 2026 and up to 32 in the women’s tournament just now, it’s unclear what “pay equity” will look like. But if they are proportional—if, say, champion on both sides earns $40 million, runner-up $30 million, semi-finalist $25 million, quarter-finalist $20 million, etc.—then if, say, USMNT goes to a quarter and USWNT loses in the final, it will actually be American women giving $4 million of their winnings to American men.

In fact, the USWNT has never finished worse than third in a World Championship, while the USMNT has never finished higher than eighth in the post-war era. So in the scenario enlightened by FIFA, pooling the money would almost certainly net the men.

But then again, they both stand to benefit – from any increase in prize money from both sides, and from each other’s success. This dynamic is one of the many charms of historic CBAs. When FIFA announced on Thursday that the 2023 prize pool would be $110 million, up from the previously discussed $60 million, that likely meant an additional $50,000 or so for every single U.S. World Cup player, male or female.

Through negotiations and discussions within player associations, some calculations were based on the assumption of a $60 million pot in 2023, with the champion earning around $6 million. Now that he’s grown up, the math has changed. US Soccer earned $13 million from the USMNT Round of 16 adventure in Qatar, of which $11.7 million went to the general player fund. A USWNT with more participants in New Zealand and Australia could contribute almost as much, depending on the specific payout breakdown that FIFA has yet to reveal.

Even with three peatlands this summer, it is unlikely that women will be the main contributors and men the main beneficiaries. But in three to four years, and possibly during the entire life of the Central Bank, which expires in 2028, this could happen.


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