U.S. Soccer president says making up FIFA prize money would bankrupt federation

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos)

U.S. Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone said Tuesday that it is unlikely that the federation would be able to make up the difference in FIFA prize money, calling it “untenable, and would likely bankrupt the Federation.”

Parlow Cone, joined by USSF CEO Will Wilson on a conference call with reporters, stressed that she and the rest of the federation “are committed to equal pay” for national team players. However, the USSF continues to maintain that they can’t accede to the players’ financial demands — including $66 million in damages — due to the fact that they have no control over the prize money FIFA hands out.

FIFA’s bonus money for the 2018 men’s World Cup was $400 million, while the total bonus money offered by FIFA at the 2019 women’s World Cup was $30 million. While France received $38 million for winning the men’s tournament, the U.S. was only given $4 million for winning the women’s.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has proposed doubling the women’s prize money to $60 million for 2023. 

“You all know that largest hurdle is the massive and frankly unfair difference in FIFA World Cup prize money for men and women, a funding source that U.S. Soccer does not control,” Parlow Cone said. “It’s solely controlled by FIFA. As it stands, the women’s team wants U.S. Soccer to pay for past and future discrepancies in FIFA prize money. This is well over $50 million for the past two World Cups and an unknown amount for the future.”

Both Parlow Cone and Wilson said they would be open to starting talks about a potential settlement “at the appropriate time,” likely meaning after the Tokyo Olympics. There, the U.S. women are heavily favored to win gold. 

Parlow Cone also added that the two sides were able to come to an agreement on the working conditions claims. There is hope that the two sides can build off that and “come to resolution on this outside of court.” 

They also have to consider negotiations over a new women’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, as the current CBA is set to expire at the end of the year. 

USWNT players’ spokesperson Molly Levinson struck a different tone, issuing the following statement to ESPN:

“As all eyes are on the USWNT preparing to compete on behalf of the USA at the Olympic Games, USSF is back at it, using tactics like blaming FIFA, holding press conferences, and hiring lobbyists in phony attempts to make unequal pay seem like it is equal pay. It is not and players, fans, sponsors, lawmakers know better — and have stood with the USWNT in demanding an end to USSF’s discrimination. If USSF is committed to equal pay, then there is nothing stopping them from paying the women players equally.”

The USWNT is back in action in the final game of the Summer Series against Nigeria at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.