What’s a World Cup Title Worth? For U.S. Women, Six Figures and Counting
Sports | August 7, 2019
United States players collected about $250,000 in bonuses for winning another world championship, but additional paydays are growing in real time.
In one sense, the answer is incalculable: an achievement no critic can take away, a tangible reward for years of training and preparation, a validation of a life’s work. A dozen members of the United States women’s soccer team already knew this feeling; they were part of the team that lifted the trophy in 2015. Now they are letting it wash over them again.
But there also is a more dispassionate, strictly dollars-and-cents calculation of the championship’s value for every member of the team that beat the Netherlands on Sunday. That math — some if it contracted and fixed, some of it speculative and growing day by day — is quite different.
In the strictest sense, a United States women’s player will receive a guaranteed payday of about $250,000 for qualifying for the World Cup, making the final roster and then winning the tournament, based on enhanced bonuses included in the team’s collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer and a payout schedule for the finishers published by FIFA earlier this year. (Those FIFA bonus figures continue to pale in comparison to the far larger payouts for teams who compete in the men’s World Cup; France’s men, for example, split $38 million for winning the men’s tournament in Russia last summer. Those payments, and comparisons to FIFA-fueled payouts to the United States men’s team after its participation in recent World Cups, are part of a broader and perpetually contentious debate about pay equality for women’s soccer.)
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Their contracts with U.S. Soccer paint a specific picture of how the money breaks down.
Qualifying and roster bonuses: Every member of the United States team that qualified for the World Cup in October earned a bonus of $37,500. Every player subsequently named to the World Cup roster picked up an additional bonus of $37,500. That means most of the squad had pocketed $75,000 before any of them set foot in France last month.
Victory bonus: FIFA pays $4 million to the winner of the Women’s World Cup (the runner-up gets $2.6 million), money sent directly to the winning federation. U.S. Soccer, as it does with the men’s team, funnels the bulk of that money back to the players who won it: this year, that means each member of the U.S. team can expect a winning share between $110,000 and $120,000.
Victory tour: A first-place finish also triggers a four-game victory tour in the women’s team’s collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer, with each player guaranteed just over $60,000 to take part. If the team and the federation mutually agree to add more games, players can expect a proportional bump of about $15,000 for each match.
The total of all those payments? Roughly $250,000 per player. And that is before other sweeteners in the players’ contracts like attendance and ratings bonuses likely to be triggered by a successful victory tour in the United States after the World Cup, not to mention side deals with personal sponsors like Nike and Adidas and friendly companies like Luna Bar.
Of course, the carry-on effects of a championship are not limited to payments from U.S. Soccer. When the women’s team negotiated its current agreement, which set base salaries, match bonuses and working conditions, it also carved out some marketing rights that in previous decades had either been granted to the federation or merely left unexplored. Those have proved to be quite valuable.
When the agreement was ratified in 2017, the team benefited from only two group licensing agreements — with EA Sports, for its FIFA video game, and Panini, the trading card maker. Now there are more than 25 such deals, for products as diverse as T-shirts and socks to bobbleheads and toys. Jersey customizations alone can mean thousands of dollars in extra income for top players. The other licensing payments go into a pool that is split equally by each member of the team.
Even before the Americans won the World Cup final on Sunday, the president of REP Worldwide, the sports marketing company the players’ union formed with its counterparts from the N.F.L. and the W.N.B.A., estimated the potential for at least $1 million in new licensing revenue — another five-figure income boost for each player — over the next year.
“We’re expanding the pie, which was the whole point,” the union’s executive director, Becca Roux, said in an interview Sunday morning. “This was never a zero-sum game.”
The players soon could be in position to test their own value even further. Top European clubs like Manchester City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have made significant investments in women’s soccer in the last decade, and powerhouses like Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid have done the same just in the last two years.
Their new interest could drive up club salaries and other marketing opportunities for top women’s players, and after next summer’s Tokyo Olympics — which brings the promise of at least $50,000 more in U.S. Soccer bonuses for those who play — the best Americans could be positioned to cash in on their value in that rapidly expanding women’s soccer marketplace.
And the pie Roux described soon may grow even larger. FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, raved about the success of this year’s World Cup during his end-of-tournament news conference on Friday. Thrilled by record television ratings in some major countries and large, enthusiastic crowds inside World Cup stadiums, he said he would propose doubling the prize money in time for the next edition of the tournament in 2023.