US Women’s Soccer Team Is Badass. Their Economics? Not So Much

Published in Economics .

The American women soccer team beat Netherlands in the final on Sunday, making this the fourth time USA takes home the Women’s World Cup. Following the historic win, the team used the ticker-tape parade organized in their honor to advocate for equal pay, claiming that women soccer players aren’t paid as much as their male counterparts.

This political campaign ended up turning into yet another public debate on the so-called gender pay gap, prompting lawmakers in Washington to threaten 2026 World Cup funding through legislation — unless female soccer players are paid as much as men.

Despite the political elite’s response, it appears that few pay attention to how much the female team produces in terms of earnings. Furthermore, it appears that nobody cares about how female soccer players in the U.S. turned out to be so good and how the opportunities would essentially disappear if it wasn’t for taxpayers. What most of the news outlets complaining about the “gap” seem to be doing instead is to ignore facts.soccer women pay gender pay gap

According to a Forbes report, the last World Cup, which was held in Russia, generated over $6 billion in revenue, with participating teams taking home $400 million. But when it comes to the Women’s World Cup, the event is expected to generate only $131 million for the entire four-year period between now and 2022. Participating teams would only take $30 million home.

In the end, the French soccer team took home $38 million from FIFA after winning the last World Cup, while the winning female soccer team, USA, will earn just $4 million. Despite this difference in earnings, and what the players themselves claim, individual female soccer players take home 13% of their team’s earnings while their male counterparts take home only 9%.

While it’s clear that what the women are making isn’t the same amount that male soccer players made, they are still pocketing a greater percentage of the earnings than the male team members. If the female team had a larger return on what the U.S. invests on them, the women players would clearly make more as a result.

Unfortunately, this game is rigged, and not because FIFA executives are playing the favoritism game. Instead, it is the U.S. government that is allocating much more taxpayer money to fund female athletes than it should, as the market may not be as responsive, or even excited, about the idea of a female soccer team. And if you doubt that, all you have to do is to review how much money the female soccer team earned when compared to the male team and ask yourself why this happened.

When consumers enjoy something, they pay for it. And when it comes to sports, they pay a lot to support their favorite teams.

In America, the U.S. government subsidizes women sports at high rates, putting other countries to shame. This overly confident investment, which is backed by taxpayer dollars and not by consumers of sports, gave the women who won this year’s Women’s World Cup an opportunity that, perhaps, wouldn’t exist without government intervention.

While it’s truly incredible to witness women playing sports and doing it as well as men, it is also absurd to think that they would be as successful today without government intervening to inflate the demand for female soccer players. Or perhaps, it isn’t that absurd, as the U.S. government isn’t giving women a chance to prove that, they too, could fill up arenas on their own and without government assistance.

If we truly respected female soccer players for how much they put into their craft, we wouldn’t be demanding more government subsidies and other artificially-raised funds to pay them as much as male athletes. Instead, we would let them prove their commercial appeal in the free market.

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