The U.S. Women’s soccer team just got one step closer to closing the wage gap

The U.S. Women’s national soccer team has been negotiating for equal pay from U.S. Soccer for over a year, even going as far to threaten to strike last year. This week, the U.S. women’s national soccer team reached a wage agreement, and although it doesn’t guarantee them the same salaries that the men’s team receives, they won some major concessions and ensured that the next time they sit down at the the table with the league, they’ll be in a position to ask for even more.

That might seem frustrating, especially since the men’s team can barely qualify for the World Cup and the women have been winning championships for years. The women’s team is also more popular with soccer fans, so there’s no argument that they aren’t selling enough tickets and swag. But according the to The New York Times, the women worked closely together on this. They sent late-night, anonymous surveys to each other (to gauge what was most important to the team without embarrassing anyone), picked over legal language in Google Docs, and hashed out who would say what in the meetings and how they would say it.

And they ended up getting, it appears, what they wanted. It was full-on, hardcore team effort.

Becky Saurbrunn told the Planet Fútbol podcast, ““We’re trying to figure out where women’s soccer is going, so we may not have the same exact structure as the men.”

"So equal isn’t the right word. It would be equitable, because we are asking for a different structure.

The deal doubles the starting salary base, boosting them up to around $200,000 and $300,000, plus bonuses. The women will now receive the same (same!) per diems as the men do, and U.S. Soccer will retroactively repay the women for the previous gap. There are also “lifestyle” enhancements, which were reportedly a huge issue for the team, regarding travel arrangements and not getting crappy hotels. There is extra support for women who are pregnant or adopting and some nitty-gritty details about licensing deals. 

The deal also give Jill Ellis, the head coach of the women’s team, some more flexibility in building out her roster. The agreement will run through 2021, which covers the Olympics and another World Cup.

So don’t be bummed or think that the women compromised on equal pay. This is actually what closing the wage gap looks like, in many ways. The team organized and worked hard together to get what they deserve — and what was important to them and their industry. No, the salaries aren’t the same as the men’s right now, and the men still aren’t as good as the women (sorry, dudes), but the new agreement is a huge step for women’s soccer, and for women’s sports in general (especially since the U.S. Women’s hockey team is about to fight the same fight).

The war for equal pay is is absolutely no where near over, but this was a win. And now athletic leagues know they can’t get away with treating women like second class citizens anymore.