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NWSL sponsor increases Challenge Cup prize pool to $1 million

The North Carolina Courage won the 2022 edition of the Challenge Cup. (Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The NWSL Challenge Cup once again will offer an increased payout.

Challenge Cup partner UKG has committed $1 million in prize money to the tournament, which will be distributed among the four teams to reach the semifinals. The tournament will run concurrently with the regular season for the first time, with the semifinals and championship match in September.

The increased prize money should mean a massive boost for players. The 2022 edition handed out $10,000 per player to the winning team, while the runners-up got $5,000 per player and the other two semifinalists got $1,500 per player.

According to UKG chief people officer Pat Wadors, the increase is part of the company’s commitment to gender pay equity.

“Change only happens if you both trigger my brain — understand there’s a gap — and then my heart, that it’s worthy of changing, (and) not paying fairly is wrong. It’s a foundational wrong,” she told The Athletic.

The $1 million figure doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s nearly the same as the $1.1 million prize pool handed out in the 2020 MLS is Back tournament.

“What I’ve been seeing so far with the National Women’s Soccer League is their intentionality of aligning themselves to partners that have similar values, interests, growth,” Wadors said. “They’re running it as a business. They’re looking at the rigor and the cadence and the goals. They’re very focused and they’re purpose-driven.

“And they’re not trying to be all things to all people. Any time you see an organization, public or private, trying to achieve too much without focus, without the rigor, that’s really hard to partner with them.”