Should federal law require women’s national sports team, such as soccer, be paid the same as their male counterparts?
Earlier this summer, the U.S. women’s national soccer team beat the Netherlands 2–0 to win the World Cup. This was their fourth time winning since the competition began in 1991, when they also won.
Yet the women get paid less even though they won their World Cup, while the men didn’t even make the 32-team cutoff for the tournament at all. The women’s final also earned higher television viewership in the U.S. than the men’s final did.
Plus the women’s team has huge stars such as Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd — prompting the satirical _The _Onion headline“U.S. Soccer Federation Argues It’s Ridiculous For Female Players To Expect Same Pay As Huge Stars Like Daniel Lovitz, Djordje Mihailovic.”
What the legislation does
The Even Playing Field Act would require equal pay between women’s and men’s national sports teams — for all sports, not just soccer.
This is similar to a bill GovTrack Insider previously covered that would withhold federal funds from the 2026 Men’s World Cup in the U.S. unless the women’s team was paid equally to the men’s team. The key difference is that bill would only incentivize equal pay but wouldn’t actually require it, as this bill would.
The House version was introduced on July 23 as bill number H.R. 3882, by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA14). The Senate version was introduced the next day as bill number S. 2253, by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that equal pay between the teams is a matter of fairness, justice, and equity.
“It’s an outrage that women athletes have had to fight for equal pay when the only thing they should be fighting for is the world title or a gold medal,” Rep. Speier said in a press release. “The U.S. Women’s National Team — the greatest team in the sport’s history — deserves fair pay for not just equal, but superior work to their male counterparts despite being subjected to less investment and unacceptable working conditions. It’s time that the U.S. led the way in pay equality for women athletes, and women in all occupations.”
“In sport after sport, U.S. women’s national teams are achieving unprecedented success despite receiving less financial support than their male counterparts,” Sen. Feinstein said in a separate press release. “Imagine what they could accomplish on a level playing field. Equal pay and resources should be provided to both men’s and women’s teams competing under the U.S. banner. That would send clear and positive message to the rest of the world.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the pay gap is a function of the vastly different revenue streams for men’s and women’s soccer.
“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,” conservative columnist Rich Lowry wrote for National Review.
“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.”
Odds of passage
The House version has attracted 36 cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Senate version has attracted seven cosponsors, all Democrats. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
Passage in the Republican controlled Senate is very unlikely.