United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) soccer star Carli Lloyd has become a household name not only for being a two-time World Cup champion and well-loved athlete but also for her outstanding efforts to bridge the pay gap that stands between male and female athletes. On October 26, Lloyd played her last-ever match in Minnesota with a brilliant 6-0 win against the Korea Republic, ending her 17 year USWNT career. Lloyd may be closing the chapter on a legacy fueled by 315 career games and 134 match goals, but she is leaving with a passion for equal pay for women athletes, having inspired change surrounding the inequities of the gender pay gap. Her valiant efforts for female athletes, past, present, and future, prove soccer to be much more than just a game.
Let's break it down from the beginning. The gender pay disparities in the same roles that both men and women occupy have become much more widely known in recent years. Many women have fought to not only change this disadvantage internally in corporate America but also to shine a spotlight on the reality behind the equal pay gap that women nationwide face every day. According to a study done by Pew Research Center, women “earned 84% of what men earned in 2020” regarding median hourly earnings of full-time and part-time workers. This statistic estimates that an added 42 days of work would be necessary for women to earn equal to what their male counterparts did that year (Barosso and Brown, 2021). Through the efforts of women nationwide, the gender pay gap has become a public debate, which is a solid milestone in the efforts for change. The first step is making the disparities known, the next steps are to bridge the gap.
On a narrowed scale, the USWNT has been thrown into the spotlight for much more than their collection of titles and trophies but also for their stance against the pay disparities between their team and their male counterparts. Many players that have come and gone through this organization have supported each other and participated in a public fight to earn the money they deserve. This organization is world-renowned for a carefully curated coaching staff and highly talented roster of players, accumulating four Women’s World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, and eight CONCACAF Gold Cups (Goal, 2021). Their male counterparts have accumulated a total of zero World Cup titles and zero Olympic gold medals; however when the women’s team won the World Cup in 2015, “they received bonuses of $75,000 — while their male counterparts would earn $390,000” (Stamm, 2019). The women’s team also stays busy during these tournaments doing much more than just playing soccer but also representing their organization and their country as a whole through press conferences, sponsorships, media relations, and numerous speaking engagements. This pay gap has existed since the formation of the U.S. Soccer organizations, but the USWNT has accumulated more titles and overall popularity than their male counterparts and are still paid remarkably less.
Carli Lloyd began her career with the USWNT in 2005 and quickly rose to fame in the world of soccer for her talent and poise as a player both on and off of the field. By the time she retired, she had accumulated an outstanding record of titles, statistics, rankings, and overall
popularity with her teammates and soccer fans worldwide. During her time as a representative and leader of the USWNT, she joined her teammates with a massive push towards equality regarding their pay. In a 2016 New York Times essay, Lloyd publicly called upon the U.S. Soccer organization for higher wages for her and her teammates. The Cornell Sun also reported that that same year, she joined four other members of the USWNT in “signing onto a wage discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer.” The judge later accepted this effort as a class-action lawsuit, which is a huge positive for these women because “the class designation awards the players injunctive relief for any player who is a team member on the day of final judgment or appeal, as well as back pay and punitive damages for any player on the team at any time between Feb. 4, 2014, and the present” (Kaplan, 2019).
In Lloyd’s 2016 New York Times article, she shares that U.S. Soccer recognizes that the USWNT generates the most revenue for the organization, yet that they were told numerous times that their motion was irrational. She decided to use facts to back up her ‘irrational’ claims of this supposedly nonexistent pay gap by stating that “the men get almost $69,000 for making a World Cup roster while we get $15,000 for making the World Cup team” and that the USWNT would produce a $5.2 million profit for U.S. Soccer in 2017 while the men’s team would lose the organization approximately $1 million.
The aftermath of this article was nothing but positive for not only the USWNT, but also women nationwide as the topic of equal pay became a conversation that was viewed as finally worth having. On September 22, 2021, U.S. Soccer released a statement following the lawsuit, saying that “[they] remain committed to equal pay for our senior national team players and ensuring that they remain among the highest paid in the world.” Within the same press release, it was stated that “U.S. Soccer offered identical contract proposals to the Women’s and Men’s National Team Players’Associations and once again called on both associations to join the Federation in finding a way to equalize FIFA prize money” (USA Soccer, 2021).
The public and genuine efforts of Lloyd to continue this push for equal pay without taking no for an answer have lit a fire of passion in many women’s hearts across numerous generations. The USWNT players will continue the push to bridge the pay disparities using the guidebook Lloyd has depicted for them, and she retires knowing that though the fight is not over, the younger generations will have her back. The love of soccer has not only grown but flourished, in female players both young and old, cultivated by Lloyd, setting a precedent that they would accept nothing less than equal pay for equal play. Carli Lloyd is hanging up her cleats on a beautiful career, having introduced a new era of women’s soccer that is not only about the love of the game but also uplifting the power women hold and the change that can come from using your voice to spark change.
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Carli Lloyd: Why I’m Fighting for Equal Pay - the New York ...
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Kaplan, Emily. “U.S. Women's Soccer Equal Pay Fight: What's the Latest, and What's next?”
ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 9 Nov. 2019,
Stamm, Kathryn. “Star Soccer Player Carli Lloyd Talks Equal Pay and History-Making Goals.”
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“U.S. Soccer Statement on Equal Pay Lawsuit.” US Soccer. Sponsored by Volkswagen, 22 Sept. 2021, www.ussoccer.com/stories/2021/09/us-soccer-statement-on-equal-pay-lawsuit.