By sharing World Cup prize money with USWNT, USMNT does what FIFA will not | Opinion

DOHA, Qatar – FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the rest of the suits at soccer’s global governing body could take a lesson or two from the U.S. men.

The USMNT is guaranteed at least $13 million in prize money from the World Cup, a figure that could rise to $17 million if they beat the Netherlands in Saturday’s round of 16 game. Thanks to the historic collective bargaining agreement reached in May between U.S. Soccer and its national teams, half that prize money will go to the U.S. women.

Do the math, and that’s at least $6.5 million for the USWNT – $500,000 more than they earned for WINNING the last two World Cups. That’s right. The USWNT got more in prize money because the men reached the knockout rounds in Qatar than they did for their last two World Cup titles.


“It’s a historic moment. Equal pay,” Tyler Adams, who was a player rep during the negotiations and is captain of the World Cup squad, said after the CBA was announced. “How often do we talk about what equal pay means in different areas in the world? In our own country? We can be the milestone for other people to look at and say, 'Is this a possibility?’ ”

Weston McKennie hugs Sergino Dest after Christian Pulisic (not pictured) scored a goal against Iran.
Weston McKennie hugs Sergino Dest after Christian Pulisic (not pictured) scored a goal against Iran.

Kudos to the USMNT for being willing to do this. They recognized that unequal pay for equal work is simply wrong, and didn’t want to be a party to that. They also recognized they stood to benefit from the national teams sharing their World Cup prize money, having gotten nothing when they failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia while the women took home $4 million for winning in 2019.

The U.S. men are now getting other benefits the USWNT have had for years, too, like childcare during national team camps and tournaments. Goalkeeper Matt Turner is already taking advantage of that, with a childcare provider accompanying his wife and infant son to Qatar.

“When it comes to equality, it was important to us and to the women that everything was equal, and we were very transparent with each other about that. We were able to achieve that,” Turner said before the World Cup began.

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But it should never have been on the USMNT to make the USWNT whole. This is a FIFA failing, one in a very long line when it comes to the women’s game.

The winner in Qatar will receive $42 million – $12 million more than the entire prize pool for the women’s event in 2019 – and the total prize pool will be $440 million, which is up from $400 million in 2018. Though Infantino has proposed doubling the prize money for the women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next summer, it will still be just $60 million. And it will have to be split among 32 teams because the field is increasing.

Infantino, along with the enlightened beings who live to criticize women’s sports, will point out the women’s World Cup doesn’t generate the profits the men’s version does. But whose fault is that? Infantino last month also chastised broadcasters who offered “100 times less” for rights to the women’s tournament than they did the men’s World Cup. Again, whose fault is that?

A crowd of 91,000 packed the Rose Bowl back in 1999 for the World Cup final between the USWNT and China. In the last few years, women’s teams – club and country – have been shattering attendance records across the United States, Europe and South America. FIFA has called ticket sales for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand “unprecedented,” with more sold in the first month of availability than in the first four months 2019 tickets were on sale.

And yet only now is FIFA selling commercial rights to the women’s World Cup separately. Before this, television rights and sponsorships were lumped in with those for the men’s World Cup, thrown in like a side of fries in a combo meal.

“We are trying to commercialize the women's World Cup for the first time on its own," Infantino said in October.

How very benevolent of you, FIFA.

By never considering there could be a market for the women’s game – a sizeable one, at that – FIFA has been leaving millions on the table. That sexist arrogance has cost FIFA, but it’s cost the women more.

Maybe had FIFA recognized there was money to be made, prize money for the women’s World Cup would be comparable, or at least closer to, the men’s tournament by now. Maybe had FIFA not taken such a dim, condescending view of the women’s game, the women’s World Cup would also be the massive global phenomenon the men’s tournament is.

There’s nothing preventing FIFA from awarding equal prize money for both World Cups, by the way.

Infantino told FIFA members the day the World Cup began that the organization had earned record revenues of $7.5 billion in the current four-year commercial cycle. FIFA’s reserves will rise to $2.5 billion. So the money is there if FIFA really wanted to make a stand for equality.

Just as the U.S. men's and women's teams already have.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT sharing World Cup money with USWNT. FIFA could learn from this.