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Even if U.S. Doesn’t Win, Its Players Will Take Home the Most Prize Money

The Canadian women’s soccer team has been demanding that its soccer federation agree to equal pay and equal working conditions for the men’s and women’s national teams for over a year. Players from England are frustrated that their country’s federation won’t offer performance-related bonuses. And the Nigerian team discussed boycotting its opening game over money the players are owed.

The fight for pay equity and equal treatment has roiled women’s soccer in recent years, with the players of the U.S. women’s national team at the forefront of that battle. Ahead of this year’s World Cup, soccer’s leaders have taken steps in addressing players’ concerns over compensation. But for many players, it’s still not enough.

FIFA — soccer’s global governing body and the organizer of the World Cup — increased the tournament’s prize money to $110 million, up from just $30 million at the last Women’s World Cup. Much of that increase comes from larger sponsorships and new broadcast rights for the women’s tournament. Yet the overall prize money still trails far behind the prize money at the recent men’s World Cup in Qatar: $440 million, or four times as much.

Still, women’s players from around the world worked to secure their share of the payout. For the first time in World Cup history, FIFA will allocate money for players and federations separately, a move made to ensure that players will see a cut of the overall prize money.

“Each player making at least $30,000 is huge, because usually that money goes to federations and players don’t see any or much of it,” Alex Morgan, a co-captain of the U.S. team, said at a news conference in June.

Morgan and her teammates, however, stand apart from most players worldwide. They will not rely on FIFA to determine their share of World Cup prize money and will instead follow the terms set out in their contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation. In it the Americans have already secured tournament prize money significantly higher than the minimums set by FIFA.

The U.S. players’ share of the tournament winnings — roughly $300,000 for each player before even stepping on the field, and rising from there — comes through a new labor agreement signed last year. It’s unprecedented in soccer history, with the players on the U.S. women’s and men’s national teams pooling, and splitting equally, the prize money earned at their respective World Cups.

How prize money will be shared by most countries

Sarah Gregorius had just wrapped up playing in the 2019 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand when she arrived in the Netherlands to take on a new job: the director of global policy for women’s soccer at FIFPro, the international players’ union.

“One of the first things that came across my plate was compensation, because there had been so much chatter at the last World Cup around equal pay and equal prize money,” Gregorius said. “I knew we had four years to get ourselves ready.”

World Cup prize money has traditionally been paid out entirely to the federations, or “member associations” as FIFA calls them — organizations like the U.S. Soccer Federation and the England Football Association that govern soccer in each country. The federations, in turn, distributed prize money to players. For those with labor contracts, the amounts distributed were based on the terms of their agreements.

But about two-thirds of the women’s national teams that will feature at this World Cup do not have any such collectively bargained contract, according to FIFPro, which would have left federations to disburse the money however they saw fit. The issue that Gregorius and others saw with this payment model is that even as FIFA issued increasingly larger sums of prize money, there was no guarantee that the players would receive a larger share, or worse, any pay at all.

In October, FIFPro sent a letter to FIFA on behalf of 150 players from 25 national teams with several demands, one of which was a guaranteed minimum payment to players. On June 8, FIFA announced that it had agreed to allocate prize money separately between federations and players, and that players would receive at least 30 percent of the total award.

How prize money will be shared each round

In previous World Cups, the payout went entirely to the federation. This year, players will receive a cut.

There are a few federations, however, including U.S. Soccer, that will operate outside of the FIFA agreement. Australia will follow both the terms of its own collective bargaining agreement and the FIFA model, awarding players whichever percentage of the FIFA prize money is higher. Japan has a pay model in which the percentage of the prize money payout that goes to men’s and women’s players is similar.

And as of Thursday, Canada Soccer and its players appeared to be close to reaching their own deal. “The offer that has been made to our players equalizes compensation and the standard of care for players across both programs,” Jason deVos, Canada Soccer’s interim general secretary, said in a statement.

In addition to the pay sharing with players, the global players union FIFPro also sought to standardize the regulations and conditions for men’s and women’s World Cup players — such as travel conditions, facilities and venues — to which FIFA agreed.

There was also a verbal commitment from Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, to equalize the prize money for the men and women ahead of the next World Cup cycle in 2026 and 2027.

Skepticism remains, however, especially among players that have historically lacked federation support. The prize money earmarked for the players will still be sent to the federations, which will then be responsible for dispersing it to players. Some players expressed concern about FIFA’s oversight of this process and the lack of a timeline for receiving the money.

“We ultimately don’t know how we’ll be paid, or whether it even has to be this year. There are ways this could really be manipulated,” said Cheyna Matthews, a forward for Jamaica. “It’s nice to see the guaranteed player payments but also you hold your breath a little bit.”

FIFA confirmed that the funding will be subject to an audit, but a spokesperson could not give a precise timeline for when players would be paid.

U.S. women’s national team will not rely on FIFA

Every single player in the U.S. camp in October signed on to the FIFPro letter, even though the terms of the FIFA deal would have little to do with their own compensation. That’s because the U.S. players and U.S. Soccer will follow the terms laid out in their own landmark labor agreement.

After a long and at times contentious battle with U.S. Soccer, the women — along with the men — signed new contracts in September that formalized sharing World Cup prize money equally.

U.S. women’s and men’s players will split World Cup prize money

U.S. Soccer takes a 10 percent cut from each team, which is made up of 23 players; the rest is then shared among the 46 men’s and women’s national team players that made the World Cup rosters. And while some federations have worked to equalize compensation for other things like match fees and travel, no other federation shares its World Cup prize money in this way.

“We have in our contract equal prize money between the men and the women, which is a shared pot. And we’re the only federation in the world that does that,” said Morgan. “We’re very happy that we fought for that and were able to attain that. Now it’s up to FIFA and other federations to do their part.”

Some countries, including the United States and Denmark, offer additional match bonuses at the World Cup — $10,000 for American players who appear in a game, while Denmark pays players amounts ranging from $1,500 to $15,000, depending on the round and whether the team wins or loses.

“No one is going as far as the U.S. in terms of what they’re giving to the players,” said Gregorius, adding that many unions and players associations are still in the process of negotiating better pay-sharing terms for players. FIFA only announced the new payment model in June.

She added that the hope was that the FIFA agreement “is treated as a floor instead of a ceiling.”

Payout based on World Cup finish

The New York Times contacted every federation appearing at this World Cup to ask about player compensation and how prize money would be shared. A few told The Times that they were exceeding the minimums outlined in the FIFA agreement but that they would not disclose specific figures or go into detail.

“Due to confidentiality reasons it is not possible to delve into financial information or how this payment scheme will work in detail,” Gustavo Araya, the general secretary of the Costa Rican Football Federation, said in an email. He added that Costa Rica’s soccer federation “is more than meeting FIFA’s requirements in this area.”

The other perhaps surprising winner at this year’s Women’s World Cup could be the players on the U.S. men’s team.

If the U.S. women win the title, each U.S. men’s player will receive an additional $205,000. That means a player for the U.S. men’s team would get more prize money from the Women’s World Cup than a female player from any other country.

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