Ex-USA coach hopes World Cup triumph transforms domestic game

Some National Women's Soccer League players are paid just USD 16,538 a season, with World Cup winners Anson Dorrance and Shannon Higgins-Cirovski calling for change.

USA players lift the Women's World Cup.   -  Getty Images

The United States has been told it risks losing its status as the best team in women's football if the "starvation wages" in its domestic league are not addressed.

USA won a fourth Women's World Cup title in Lyon on Sunday, retaining the trophy with a 2-0 victory over Netherlands after knocking out European heavyweight France and England in the previous two rounds.

Megan Rapinoe, the tournament's Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner, once again spoke about the disparity in prize money between the women's and men's finals afterwards, with USA's players taking home USD 4 million compared to the USD 38 m France accrued for winning the men's World Cup in Russia last year.

There is also a huge gap between the top domestic leagues in America, where the minimum and maximum salaries for this NWSL season are USD 16,538 and USD 46,200 respectively, compared to the minimum in MLS of USD 56,250 and the maximum, which will be paid to LA Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of USD 7.2m.

Read | USA returns home with Women's World Cup trophy, and champagne, in hand

All of the 23 players in Jill Ellis' World Cup-winning squad ply their trade in NWSL — though their salaries are subsidised by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and include payments for their international feats — and former USA coach Anson Dorrance wants greater investment at the professional level.

'Starvation wages'

Dorrance, who led USA to its maiden World Cup triumph in 1991 and coached the likes of Crystal Dunn and Tobin Heath at the collegiate level in his current role at North Carolina, told Omnisport: "An entry-level professional is paid USD 16,500 a year in the NWSL. That's starvation wages. I would love to see more and more women start to make the sort of money we're seeing on the men's side."

While USA was able to see off the challenge of the Europeans this time, the other seven World Cup quarterfinalists all came from the continent and the balance of power may have shifted by 2023.

There has been increased investment in the women's game in Europe in recent years, major clubs like Lyon, Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester City all significantly backing their women's teams. "We're going to be in trouble if we don't create a league that competes with what the Europeans are doing now," added Shannon Higgins-Cirovski, who was a key member of the World Cup-winning team in 1991.

"Hats off to us at this point, [but] I'm hoping we can create something from this momentum and make it so we don't have to worry about that."

 

Rapinoe said after USA's win on Sunday that FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who had revealed plans to double the prize money for the next Women's World Cup, wants to speak to her about the financial matters after fans chanted "equal pay" at the final.

There will also be conversations between USSF and Ellis' players over the pay gap between USA's men's and women's teams, with the newly crowned World Cup winners having instigated legal action against the federation earlier this year for alleged gender discrimination over earnings and working conditions.

Call for transparency

Dorrance wants to see equality, but also greater transparency over the revenue generated by the two teams given reports suggest the women bring in more than their male counterparts. "[The USFF should] have a very transparent set of accounting books to show exactly what happens," Dorrance added.

"This is how many people watched this Women's World Cup game in the United States, here were the sponsorship dollars and here's how we're going to reward our women that have just won the event. I would love for that to become clearer. In terms of per diem, there should be no difference, those should be the same, then your rewards should be based on what you make.

"I don't think all of a sudden these women should be paid the amount of money Christian Pulisic is paid [by Chelsea] because of the crowd he's played in front of at Borussia Dortmund and what he will play in front of at Chelsea. But I would love for it to be transparent and for them to be paid what they're worth."

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