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US Soccer just said that the male players are more skilled than the women and… what?

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The sport’s governing body is arguing the women’s soccer players don’t deserve equal pay because being a male footballer “requires a higher level of skill”. Yes, really. 

The US women’s soccer team are currently locked in a legal battle with the sport’s governing body demanding that they receive equal pay to the men’s team.

Some of the female players earn just 38% of what the men receive in payment, according to the lawsuit, despite competing in more games and bringing in more revenue for the organisation than their male counterparts. Not to mention emerging from the 2019 Women’s World Cup as champions. For those playing along at home, the male team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

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The trial is finally going ahead, with $66 million in damages on the line. And what was US Soccer’s response? To argue that, actually, the male players should receive more money than the female players, because being a male player “requires a higher level of skill”. 

A statement from the legal team for US Soccer read: “A reasonable juror could conclude that… MNT player requires materially different skill and more responsibility”.

The US women's soccer team
The US women’s soccer team are fighting for equal pay.

It continued that this is not a “sexist stereotype” but rather is in reference to the fact that there are “materially different working conditions” between the male and female teams. 

Also, the statement argued, it is “indisputable science” that men are faster and stronger than women, and therefore should be paid more.

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According to US Soccer, the male players also have more responsibility, bringing in more viewers for their games, competing in “multiple soccer tournaments with the potential for generating a total of more than $40 million in prize money for US Soccer every four years”. The women only play in one tournament every four years – the World Cup, which they won – and therefore their revenue-generating potential is less. 

USA Women's team celebrating after winning the Women's World Cup 2019
The US women's soccer team celebrates their 2019 World Cup victory.

Let’s fact check that claim, shall we? In 2016, when five female soccer players – including star goalkeeper Hope Solo – served US Soccer with a lawsuit about their pay, the women’s team generated $20 million in revenue while the men’s team not only didn’t generate any revenue, but actively lost $2 million for the organising body. And yet at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the women’s A team was paid the same amount as the men’s B team. 

For the record: the US women’s team have four Olympic golds and three World Cups to their name. The men’s team have two Olympic gold medals and their best World Cup result is third place, back in 1930. 

Hope Solo on the soccer pitch.

The legal team for the 28 female soccer players who filed the claim against US Soccer have called the organising body’s argument “ridiculous”.

“It sounds as if it has been made be a caveman,” spokesperson Molly Levinson told CNN. “Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players ‘have more responsibility’ is just plain simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with. So, looking forward to trial”.

The trial is set to begin on 5 May. We’re looking forward to it, too.  

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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