As the American women’s soccer team prepares to defend their Olympic gold medal this summer in Rio, much of the news coming out of their camp deals with off-field matters—specifically, their legal action against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
They’re hoping to close the pay gap between themselves and the men’s program.
Unlike the USSF, the CSA doesn’t release detailed numbers, so it’s difficult to see if there’s a similar disparity in pay between national teams. But one need only look at a recent blog post from veteran defender Rhian Wilkinson to show that the relationship between the Canadian players and the CSA is a bit different from south of the border:
“The approach taken by the American players is not how I would like us to proceed in Canada. Canadian soccer has made huge strides over the past few years towards creating a more equitable system between the men and women. It is not perfect, but we are in a very strong position to take a global lead in these matters.”
The simple reason behind the difference between programs is that the CSA’s budget is nowhere near that of the USSF, and the American teams play far more home revenue-generating friendlies than their Canadian counterparts.
Last year, for example, the American men’s team played six home friendlies (in addition to competitive matches) and averaged 32,816 fans. The only home games the Canadian men played were in World Cup qualifying or the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The American women’s team played 13 home friendlies (including a World Cup victory tour) and averaged 30,116. Outside of the Women’s World Cup and Pan American Games, Canada played just one home friendly.
Those games simply generate more revenue for the Americans alone, which is part of the litigation — given the draw of their team, the American women feel they’re unfairly compensated.
Most of Canada’s men’s games are abroad and they only have a handful of camps a year while the Canadian women had weeks-long residency camps in Vancouver with the CSA footing the bill on all of that. Something like that is simply above and beyond what the organization pays for the men’s team.
Given the nature of men’s international football and men’s players scattered all over the globe, residency camps like that will likely never be a possibility. On top of that, the CSA foots the bill for 11 players’ club salaries at the NWSL — something that would never happen for men’s players.
The other simple matter that differentiates the United States and Canada is that the U.S. men’s team has qualified for multiple World Cups consecutively. Canada hasn’t.
Just for qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a team that gets knocked out in the group stage gets $8 million, while the Women’s World Cup champions (the United States) got just $2 million.
That’s a matter to be taken up with FIFA and it’s something Canada hasn’t had to worry about since the men haven’t qualified for a men's World Cup since 1986.
The women’s program has been Canadian soccer’s claim to fame the last few years, and short of getting detailed numbers, players of both genders seem satisfied with the treatment they get from their national body.
McLeod has bright future despite injury
It was a big blow for the Canadian women’s team the other day when Erin McLeod put out a statement confirming she will miss the Olympics due to a torn ACL suffered in a UEFA Women’s Champions League game.
It will be her third operation and in the statement, one could detect an acceptance that she may never be the same goalkeeper again.
My surgical options mean it will take between one and two years to come back,” McLeod said. “And there are no guarantees, as there never really are in life.”
McLeod signed off by saying she plans to be back on the field again, but the previous quote seems to indicate she may be at peace with the fact that she may very well never play again.
Having covered the team and McLeod as a journalist and while working for the CSA, I’ve come to know her as one of the most interesting and well-rounded people to suit up for the national team of either gender and at any age. From her interest in fashion and her prowess as a painter to her singing abilities, she's one of the most interesting and engaging people I have been able to work around, and the Canadian sporting mosaic has been richer with her in it.
Wherever she lands, whether it’s on or off the field, McLeod will be a success.