The world’s best female soccer players are competing in stadiums all over France (and on your TV) at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 this summer.
The defending World Cup champion U.S. women’s national team was again the top-ranked team heading into the 2019 World Cup, and Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and the rest of Team U.S.A. have early tournament matches scheduled against Thailand, Chile, and Sweden. Germany, England, France, and Canada are also among the other top-ranked teams given the best odds of making it to the World Cup Finals on Sunday, July 7.
As you watch the World Cup 2019, it’ll be apparent that the world’s best female soccer players have dedicated their lives to soccer, and that they are as talented and have worked as hard as any athletes on the planet. Yet they aren’t paid nearly as much as other pro athletes. Female tennis stars earn more than their soccer counterparts, and big-time male athletes make far more money than women in almost all fields.
Even so, we wondered: Is there some money to be made for being one of the world’s best female soccer players?
Among the questions we wanted answers for: Are the best female soccer players rich? How much do members of the U.S. women’s national team make? How much World Cup prize money is at stake during this summer’s tournament in France? How much do other top female soccer players make around the world? And why is there such a huge pay gap when comparing pro salaries and World Cup bonuses for the world’s best male and female soccer players?
Here’s everything we know about how much money women’s World Cup players earn — throughout the 2019 tournament in France, and as professional soccer players during the rest of the year.
The Richest Soccer Players — Male and Female
Professional female athletes, and the U.S. women’s national soccer team in particular, have been battling for equal pay for years. The gender pay disparity is glaring: When Forbes released its list of the world’s highest-paid athletes last year, there was not a single woman in the top 100. In the just-released list of highest-paid athletes of 2019, there is one woman in the top 100: tennis superstar Serena Williams, who earned an estimated $29 million over the past year and holds the #63 spot.
Even in a ranking of overall richest female athletes, there are no soccer players in the top 20. Instead, the list is dominated by women’s tennis stars, notably Serena Williams, who has been the highest-paid female athlete for years and was named to the Forbes’ Richest Self-Made Women list for the first time in 2019, with a net worth of $225 million.
Though it’s difficult to get accurate information about the net worth of many pro athletes, the richest female soccer player in the 2019 World Cup is probably U.S.A.’s Alex Morgan. Some say that Morgan, a star goal scorer for Team U.S.A. and the Orlando Pride, makes upwards of $1 million annually, after totaling up her many sponsorship deals with her more modest salaries and bonuses from playing soccer. Overall, Alex Morgan’s net worth has been estimated at $3 million by the website CelebrityNetWorth.com. Morgan’s teammate on the U.S. women’s national team, Julie Ertz, also has a net worth estimated at $3 million.
That may sound like a lot of money — and it is — but some perspective is needed. The world’s highest-paid male soccer stars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, each earn over $100 million salaries and endorsements annually. Each has an estimated net worth of $450 million, and Ronaldo and Messi easily make over 100 times what the world’s best female soccer players earn.
Women’s World Cup 2019 Prize Money
The 2019 World Cup championship team will win $4 million, and the total prize money awarded to all teams during this summer’s World Cup is roughly $30 million. Both figures are double what the women’s World Cup paid out to teams during the 2015 tournament in Canada.
But let’s compare those figures with the men’s World Cup: In 2018, World Cup champion France was awarded $38 million by FIFA for winning the tournament, which is more than what all of the 2019 women’s World Cup teams get combined. The prize money overall for the men’s 2018 World Cup in Russia came to a total of $400 million, or over 13 times more than the FIFA prize money for the women this summer.
The main argument for why the men’s World Cup prize money totals are so much bigger than the women’s counterpart is that men’s soccer has far more interest among fans — and far higher revenues. The women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada reportedly brought in $73 million in revenues, including some $17 million in TV ads just in the U.S. Those are actually tiny numbers compared to the $6 billion in revenues FIFA raked in during the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia.
How Much Money U.S. Women’s National Team Players Make
The U.S. women’s national team fought for a raise, and got one in 2017, when players began receiving an undisclosed pay increase. Before then, members of the U.S. national team were paid “a maximum of $4,950 per ‘friendly,’ or non-tournament, game that they won, while men’s national-team players earned an average of $13,166 for the same thing,” according to The Atlantic.
Yet even after the pay raise, America’s female national team still makes significantly less than their male equivalents. This is the case even though the women have won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals over the past two decades, compared to zero and zero for the U.S. men’s team.
Earlier this year, the U.S. women’s team filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, seeking better pay for women, who reportedly earn 38% of what their male counterparts make. Among other arguments U.S. Soccer attorneys have made to explain the gender pay differences are that the men’s and women’s national teams “have separate collective bargaining agreements; and have separate budgets that take into account the different revenue that the teams generate.”
While U.S. Soccer fights the women’s national team lawsuit, sponsors have stepped up in the battle over equal pay. In early April, USWNT sponsor LUNA Bar made a donation that will give each member of the women’s team $31,250 — which is the difference between the World Cup bonuses for America’s men’s and women’s teams.
Meanwhile, U.S. Soccer sponsor Visa says that under the terms of a new five-year deal more than 50% of its funding will go to the women’s team, rather than a 50-50 split between men and women like in the past. And soccer branding titan Adidas says that it will pay equal bonuses to all of its sponsored players, male and female alike, for winning the World Cup.
So how much money could U.S. women’s national team players make if they win the World Cup 2019? It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact figure, partly because some payments are undisclosed, and also because different players get different salaries and bonuses.
FiveThirtyEight.com estimated that World Cup hero Carli Lloyd made $366,000 in 2015, after adding up all of her bonus money, appearance fees, and other income related to the World Cup and the Olympics, plus her salary for being on the national team, plus what she made for playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
Four years later, the women’s World Cup victory money has doubled, and each player can expect to gross about $150,000 from FIFA if she’s on the winning team. What’s more, LUNA has increased USWNT player bonuses by over $30,000, and NSWL salaries have increased slightly and now max out at $46,200.
So if the U.S. team wins the World Cup 2019, top players could earn over $400,000 overall this year, and the total could perhaps be closer to $500,000. That’s before endorsement deals, which can add hundreds of thousands of dollars more for star players.
These are only high-end estimates for America’s best players in a World Cup year, and they’re based on the U.S. winning the 2019 World Cup. Other members of the team may earn significantly less in the course of a year, and all players will make less money if they don’t win it all.
How Much Female Soccer Players Make Around the World
Most players on the U.S. women’s national team play professionally in the NSWL, pulling in salaries of less than $50,000. But the NSWL isn’t the only professional female soccer league in the world, and it’s possible to make more money elsewhere.
Lyon, which plays in the Champions League in Europe and is often cited as the world’s best-paid women’s pro soccer team, reportedly pays its players an average of 162,000 euros (about $182,00) annually. Unsurprisingly, in a recent ranking of the best female soccer players in the world, 5 out of the top 10 play professionally for Lyon.
For the sake of comparison, the top players in the Women’s Super League (WSL), in England, make about $44,000 a year, on par with the maximum salaries for NSWL players in the U.S.
Some professional women’s soccer players earn much less than that. Women who play sparingly in the WSL might make in the neighborhood of $6,000 to $12,000, while the minimum NSWL salary is $16,538. In Australia’s W-League, the average female player’s salary is AUD $17,400, which is the equivalent of about $12,000 in U.S. dollars (Unsurprisingly, the Australian women’s national team has been very vocal in the fight with FIFA for equal pay for men’s and women’s World Cup players.)
There are also “professional” players competing in the 2019 World Cup who make little or no money playing soccer throughout the year. Heading into the World Cup, the New York Times asked dozens of women’s players how much they earned from soccer in the course of a year, and several players for Jamaica gave answers ranging from $0 to a few hundred dollars. Other players, from Thailand, South Africa, Nigeria, and Argentina, say they make less than $5,000 annually from soccer.