The USWNT Have to Split Their $3 Million World Cup Earnings With the USMNT; Here's Why

a split image of Megan Rapinoe and Weston McKennie with a $100 dollar bill in the background to symbolize how the USWNT and USMNT split world cup prize money
Image Source: Getty | Joe Prior Richard Heathcote Westend61; Photo Illustration: Aly Lim
Image Source: Getty | Joe Prior Richard Heathcote Westend61; Photo Illustration: Aly Lim

The US Women's National Team (USWNT) may not be taking home the trophy at the 2023 FIFA World Cup, but they did make history in another way. For the first time, the team played in a World Cup while under a prize-sharing agreement that aims to address issues of pay inequity between the USWNT and their counterparts on the US Men's National Team (the USMNT). Any prize money the USWNT take home from the tournament will be split with the USMNT — and this agreement could be the start of something big in the sports world.

How does it work, exactly? Here's a breakdown, and why it matters.

Why Do the USWNT and USMNT Split World Cup Prize Money?

The money-sharing agreement came after the USWNT's years-long fight for equal pay, which included a 2019 gender discrimination lawsuit and a serious campaign to raise awareness among the public. Ultimately, in May 2022, the two teams under US Soccer signed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to address the issue of pay disparity between men's and women's teams. Under this agreement, which is valid through 2028, the two teams will operate under "identical economic terms," meaning, for example, that they'll be paid equally for performances, appearances, and competitions. However, despite equal pay being guaranteed within US Soccer, pay is far from equal outside the country; for that reason, the CBA also established that the prize money earned at international tournaments (such as the World Cup) would be split among the teams.

Here's how it works: The USWNT and USMNT will equally share prize money won by either team; 90 percent of any winnings earned by either team is pooled and split evenly between the two teams, while the remaining 10 percent goes to US Soccer. According to US Soccer, this marks the first time, worldwide, that FIFA World Cup prize money is being equally shared between women's and men's national teams.

The CBA also includes, for the first time, a revenue-sharing agreement for commercial broadcasts, sponsorships, and partnerships. US Soccer will share a portion of those revenues, and that portion will be split equally between the men's and women's teams. Both teams will also benefit equally from perks like childcare.

Why is this revenue sharing so important? Well, because women's soccer remains highly underpaid, compared to the men's sport.

What Are the World Cup Prize Amounts?

One of the biggest differences between the men's and women's World Cup tournaments is the prize money awarded at each. At the 2022 men's World Cup in Qatar, the total pool of prize money reached $440 million. (This money was then distributed based on how each team placed.) For the 2023 women's tournament, FIFA announced the prize pool will reach a historic high of $152 million — more than triple the amount awarded at the 2019 Women's World Cup, but still just over a third of the men's total prizes.

At the 2022 World Cup, the USMNT took home a total of $14.5 million: $13 million for advancing as far as the knockout stage, and $1.5 million for qualifying to the tournament overall. Once US Soccer's 10 percent cut is taken out, that leaves just over $13 million for the two teams to split, meaning the USWNT got a share of over $6 million.

At the 2023 women's tournament, the USWNT made a historic early exit, getting eliminated in the round of 16. This means the team is awarded just under $3.3 million as a base, including money allocated per-team and per-player by FIFA, according to the New York Times. The USWNT will fare better overall, though, thanks to their collective bargaining agreement. Once that's pooled with the men's prize money from last year, and the US Soccer cut is taken, the USWNT will take home approximately $7.3 million (around $300,000 per player) — almost on par with the prize money set to be awarded by FIFA to the women's World Cup runners-up.

Why This Agreement Is a Really Big Deal

If you've spent any time in the sports world (seriously, any sport, just pick one), you've heard the tired arguments about why pay equity is no big deal and why women "deserve" lower pay: they're not as popular, they're not earning as much money for the federation, or they're just not "as good."

We all know that's not true.

Women's sports have faced an uphill battle from day one. They have less history behind them, less cultural presence because of that, and they face plenty of misogynistic backlash for simply existing or for daring to think they deserve to be treated as professionals. It becomes a vicious cycle: federations and sponsors claim to justify lower investments because of lower returns, but without adequate investments, women's sports cannot gain an equal footing. Even FIFA itself has gotten in on the fight, calling out broadcasters for woefully underbidding on events like the Women's World Cup (despite the fact that FIFA itself is only just now starting to handle the women's tournament on its own, rather than as an "add-on" packaged with the rights to the men's tournament).

"100 times less, even more than 100 times in some occasions, then this is not acceptable," said FIFA president Gianni Infantino, according to the Associated Press. "We are not going to accept this because we know that the viewing figures for these broadcasters in some big footballing countries for the men's World Cup or for the Women's World Cup are actually very similar . . . meaning their commercial income is very similar for men and for women."

The USMNT, for their part, seems thrilled about the agreement. They'll benefit both from the positive effect of being part of this amazing change, and from the financial boost they'll gain from their much more successful counterparts on the USWNT, who've won four World Cup titles.

"It's a historic moment. Equal pay," Tyler Adams, captain of the USMNT World Cup squad and a player/negotiator during the 2022 CBA negotiations, told USA Today. "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?'"

Most importantly, this prize-sharing agreement isn't just about today's players — it's about investing in and growing the future of the sport.

"The gains we have been able to achieve are both because of the strong foundation laid by the generations of WNT players that came before the current team and through our union's recent collaboration with our counterparts at the USNSTPA and leadership at U.S. Soccer," USWNT player and USWNTPA President Becky Sauerbrunn said following the CBA announcement. "We hope that this agreement and its historic achievements in not only providing for equal pay but also in improving the training and playing environment for National Team players will similarly serve as the foundation for continued growth of women's soccer both in the United States and abroad."