United States Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone has sent an open letter to the unions of the U.S. men's and women's national teams, asking that they agree to equalize the allocation of prize money from the FIFA World Cup. According to a report by Kathleen McNamee of ESPN, the men's team has been called upon to reallocate a portion of FIFA's World Cup payments to the women's team, while both unions will be offered the same contract.
The letter was the latest development in an ongoing saga concerning the pay of the women's team, which stems from a March 2019 lawsuit against the USSF. While the federation had claimed that its ability to divide winnings equally was not possible due to the prize pot being controlled by FIFA, players had argued that FIFA did not control the money for a number of other events including World Cup qualifiers.
"The massive discrepancy in FIFA World Cup prize money is by far the most challenging issue we continue to face in our parallel negotiations with the men's and women's national teams," read Parlow Cone's letter, per ESPN. "While FIFA has made some impactful investments in the women's game, the discrepancy in prize money remains stark.
"FIFA alone controls those funds, and U.S. Soccer is legally obligated to distribute those funds based on our current negotiated collective bargaining agreements with the men's and women's teams.
"Within this challenge, we see an opportunity to create change. To capitalize on that opportunity, we need our men's and women's national teams to come together and re-think how we've done things in the past. To that end, we have invited the players and both Players Associations to join U.S. Soccer in negotiating a solution together that equalizes World Cup prize money between the USMNT and USWNT."
Despite the seeming olive branch being extended from U.S. Soccer to the women's national team, the USWNT Players Association and players who have sued the USSF rejected a number of claims in the letter, namely that the women's team had been offered the "exact same contract" as the men's team. Becca Roux, executive director of the players association, accused the USSF of engaging in a "publicity stunt" instead of addressing their grievances.
Compared to the $400 million in prize money awarded to teams in the 2018 men's World Cup, the 2019 women's World Cup saw its 24 teams be awarded just $30 million by comparison, with $4 million going to the U.S. women's team for winning the tournament. While FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed increasing the prize pool for the 2022 women's World Cup to $60 million, the men's tournament's prize total is set to be increased to $440 million.