The women of the U.S. national soccer team are famous for being extraordinary athletes, repeat world champions — and plaintiffs. 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.

It’s not to take anything away from the women’s achievement 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 garnered 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.

The lawsuit’s explanation for a smaller audience for the women’s team is what it calls “manufactured revenue depression,” a deliberate effort by the federation to squelch the women’s ticket prices. The smaller women’s audience can’t be the work of one organization.

Another element of pay for women’s and men’s players is their play for professional leagues, where the scale of the audiences is, again, vastly different.

The National Women’s Soccer League has two strong teams that average more than 10,000 fans per game, but the other seven teams in the league average fewer than 5,000.

The worst of the men’s Major League Soccer teams, the Chicago Fire, averages 11,417.

It’s hard to argue, though, with the simple approach the women say that they have proposed in the past — revenue sharing based on how much money they bring in.

There’s risk to this arrangement if the women underperform, but this group is nothing if not self-confident, and so far has always delivered.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.

(2) comments


Thanks to Rich Lowry for pointing out the fact that the 'women's game isn't as popular or profitable' as the men's games 'which fundamentally drives pay.' This is how it works in a capitalist system; you can't force audiences to watch something they're not interested in just to provide a feel-good handout to a sport not carrying its weight.


Glad to see someone show the facts behind this. It's the same in any sport, minor league baseball players don't make the same a major league players for the same reason, it's all about the revenue they generate. But of course in this messed up "woke" society we live in now everyone just want a hand out. I'm sure the disrespect to our country from certain players will also drive away fans and viewers even more.

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