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The U.S. men's and women's soccer teams will now be paid equally

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Equal pay is now a reality for the best female soccer players in this country. In a historic announcement today, the U.S. Soccer Federation said it has agreed with its men's and women's national teams to pay them the same amounts for all games and competitions. Perhaps most significantly, they'll equally share prize money from World Cup appearances. Joining me now is NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

GOLDMAN: So, Tom, equal pay - it's been a rallying cry in recent years for the women's national team, a team that's been so successful. How did this finally happen?

GOLDMAN: Well, according to U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, it happened after a lot of hard work and collaboration and give and take by the men's and women's national teams. And it came after an often bitter process, you know, marked by years of legal disputes and nasty words at times between the Soccer Federation and its prized female athletes, who did so much to put U.S. Soccer on the global soccer map with multiple World Cup titles. Now, some of the key components of this agreement - men's and women's identical appearance fees and bonuses for all games and competitions, a 50-50 split of broadcast apparel, sponsorship and ticket revenue, and also equal hotel accommodations and charter flight travel, and equal quality playing venues and field surfaces. Now, that's significant because the women often complain, rightly so, about having to play on lesser field surfaces that sometimes increase the risk of injury.

FADEL: And I take it a key part of this historic deal is the equal World Cup pay.

GOLDMAN: Oh, yeah. That is huge and said to be a first-of-its-kind arrangement for any soccer federation in the world. The men's and women's teams will pool and share World Cup prize bonus money. The unequal payments have long been a sticking point in the women's quest for equal pay. FIFA, soccer's international governing body, paid hugely less money to the 24 women's teams in the World Cup than the 32 men's teams. The teams at the 2019 Women's World Cup had $30 million in total prize money. The men at this year's World Cup in Qatar will divvy up 450 million.

FADEL: Whoa.

GOLDMAN: U.S. Soccer always says - it has said that its hands were tied because it couldn't control how FIFA paid out this huge imbalance of money. And the discrepancy, Leila, was exacerbated by the fact that the U.S. women won the World Cup in 2015 and 2019, while the U.S. men didn't even qualify in 2018. So U.S. Soccer Federation and its men's and women's teams resolved this with a major concession by the men to pool and share World Cup prize money with the women. Walker Zimmerman from the men's team and a member of the players' union said convincing his teammates to do this wasn't always the smoothest, but they realized sharing these lopsided earnings was the only way to get the agreement done.

FADEL: But like you said, women's soccer in the U.S. put U.S. soccer on the global map. So could there be ripple effects, impacts beyond U.S. Soccer?

GOLDMAN: You know, you'd like to think so. It won't be easy. Some women's teams in other countries have tried to move forward toward more equal pay, but the World Cup inequities have kept these men's and women's teams from achieving that kind of equality. But today's announcement, the way the agreement was reached will certainly be noted throughout the sports world and be a benefit to U.S. Soccer in particular. With the women no longer having to fight for what they always said was right and just, soccer in general can only benefit going forward with its best players happier and now with an incentive to grow the game even more.

FADEL: NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thank you so much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.