After more than a year of increasingly bitter negotiations that saw U.S. Soccer sue the women's national team (and inadvertently release the personal information of dozens of players), and the USWNT counter with a federal wage discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Soccer and the USWNT have approved a new collective bargaining agreement that will run through 2021.
The five-year deal was ratified Tuesday night during a conference call with the players and the U.S. Soccer board, and although it does not provide for pay equal to that of the men's national team—the driving force of the women's public campaign—it includes significant increases in base pay and player bonuses, as well as advances in areas like travel accommodations and working conditions. Under the new deal, women could make as much as $300,000 per year, and more in World Cups years; they will receive equal per diems as the men; and U.S. Soccer agreed to financially support the National Women's Soccer League with increased roster and camp bonuses for non-USWNT players and improvements to league facilities.
It seems like the players were willing to budge on a straight-up equal payment framework in order to secure these other improvements to the women's game in general. It's also possible that with the EEOC complaint unaffected by the CBA, the players got what they could from U.S. Soccer and hope for a win from the commission. It's equally possible that with the Trump administration's business-friendly approach to everything, the players took what they could get from U.S. Soccer before their argument is labeled a loser by the federal government.
Whatever the case, the players and the players' association began to soften it's approach from "equal pay" to "equitable pay," in part because of the structural differences between men's soccer and women's soccer. Women on the national team also have their club salaries paid by USWNT, and nearly all the women play in NWSL. The men do not have similar structure with MLS (or elsewhere). Co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn described the situation on a Sports Illustrated podcast recorded before the deal was struck:
"We're trying to figure out where women's soccer is going, so we may not have the same exact structure as the men," Sauerbrunn said. "So equal isn't the right word. It would be equitable, because we are asking for a different structure."
The players were thinking about long-term sustainability and growth in women's soccer, not just for those players on the national team, and decided that CBA-guaranteed equal pay was not a requirement right now so long as other areas were covered.