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Benchmarking Pay for the US National Soccer Teams

You may have heard a little something about the United States women’s national soccer team and their fight for fair pay, which ended the day after Equal Pay Day. While we know that compensation for both the women’s and men’s teams is set by collective bargaining agreements, play along with us as we look at the process of conducting a salary market study through the lens of this situation. Why? Market studies, where companies evaluate how other organizations with similar jobs are paying, are a common approach to determine how to pay employees for the work they’re doing. They have two main steps: benchmarking the position and defining the market.

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Benchmarking the position

Let’s start with the job itself. We’ll need to find an appropriate benchmark job as our basis for comparison. In this case, the benchmark job is “soccer player,” with the core tasks and responsibilities of the job being the same, whether we’re talking about Cristiano Ronaldo or Carli Lloyd on the field.

Next, we would consider specific compensable factors that influence how a job is paid in the market. Since we want to benchmark the job to the proficiency point in order to develop a pay range, we’d scale years of experience to represent the peak of a player’s career, probably somewhere between 20 and 25 years of total soccer-playing experience. The skills necessary to be a player at the national-team level would be the same across men and women. Management responsibilities might change whether you were a captain or not, but certainly not based on gender. Formal education and professional certifications as a soccer player would be immaterial compensable factors so we would disregard them here.

Additional factors like goals scored, assists made, 50-50 balls won, speed, strength, or championships won would all affect pay rates, but that would vary by player, not by job, meaning these factors would inform individual salary differences in an organization that sought to pay for performance; there’s no justifiable reason for different weighting based on gender.

Defining the market

Now that we’ve benchmarked the job, let’s take a look at the market itself and whether it’s different for the women’s and men’s teams. While it’s true that not all organizations use their exact organization description as their talent market for comparison, in this case and for this exercise, it makes sense to do so.

  • Location scope: United States (nationwide)
  • Organization type: The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body for both teams, is a Non-Profit Organization.
  • Industry: Sports Team or Club
  • Organization size: Both teams field 23-player rosters.
  • Annual revenue: When measuring organization size by revenue, organizations with higher revenue often pay more, which makes sense, given that they can afford to do so and it can be a competitive advantage for them in the battle for top talent. Here’s where we finally see a difference that might justify a disparity in pay between the women’s and men’s teams—except it doesn’t shake out the way you might expect: in 2015, the men’s team brought in $21 million in revenue while the women’s team brought in $23.5 million. The women are also expected to continue out-earning the men based on the 2016 budget report from the USSF.

Thus if we were to conduct a market study using comp best practices to determine pay for the United States women’s and men’s national soccer teams, the market would indicate that the pay disparity at the heart of the 2016 wage discrimination complaint was not justified (and frankly, severely inequitable and unethical). In fact, if the United States Soccer Federation’s comp philosophy were to pay for performance, one could argue that the women—three-time World Cup winners—should be paid significantly more than the men, who have failed to advance beyond the World Cup quarterfinals in 84 years.

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Dr O
Dr O

Neat summary of the situation! I teach Compensation Management in my university and a team presented these facts a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, there was no historical information to address another student’s question about whether the past four to six years also showed discrimination against the ladies’ team. Would you happen to have access to such info? Thanks in advance!

Timothy Stanton
Timothy Stanton

I’m glad you did not mention that wages are collectively bargained and that players are represented by lawyers when these wages were established and then finally voted on by the players themselves. That way we can make social commentary and not be burdened with details.


If this article was published 26-days earlier, I would have thought it was an April Fools joke! I has no common sense applied in the proposed “analysis”. Women’s soccer is no where near the populatity of Men’s soccer. Really, I subscribe to PayScale – this article makes me wonder if the Author and PayScale team are dipping into the marketing stash!… You know POT is legal now in Washington State…

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