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Soccer newsletter: How the long fight for equal pay finally ended

The U.S. team hoists the SheBelieves Cup trophy earlier this year.
(Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)

Hello, and welcome to the weekly L.A. Times soccer newsletter. I’m Kevin Baxter, The Times’ soccer writer, and today we look at how defense is carrying Angel City in the early going, how the European league season finished, and how LAFC and the Galaxy are going in different directions heading into Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup showdown.

But we start with last week’s historic accords between the U.S. Soccer Federation and its men’s and women’s national teams on separate collective bargaining agreements that will guarantee equal pay for the first time.

Cindy Parlow Cone has long known there were disparities in the way the team were paid and treated. When she was a World Cup-champion player in 1999, she even joined her teammates in boycotting a series of games to draw attention to the injustice.

At the time, the women were asking for $5,000 a month. Last week, Cone presided over a settlement that will pay the women’s team tens of millions of dollars. And getting it done depended on a series of financial concessions from the men’s national team.

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“There were moments when I thought it was all going to fall apart, then it came back together,” she said. “The real turning point was when we finally were all in the same room, sitting at the same table, working together and collaborating to reach this goal.”

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

Ratification of the separate CBAs probably will end the six-year legal fight between the women’s team and the federation over gender discrimination. In February, the sides reached an agreement on a deal that included a $24-million payment from the federation to the players, but it was contingent on a promise to equalize pay between the men’s and women’s teams.

“It’s a big accomplishment to arrive at a structure all sides could accept, even though the devil is always in the details in these kinds of deals,” said Steven A. Bank, the Paul Hastings professor of business law at UCLA.

U.S. Soccer had been working on finalizing CBAs with the men’s and women’s national teams in separate negotiations despite the fact the two were tied. Bonus money was a big sticking point; in the last World Cup it played in (2014), the men made $9 million for reaching the round of 16. That was more than twice the $4 million the women made for winning their last World Cup in 2019.

Linda Hamilton, who played for the U.S. in the first two Women’s World Cups in 1991 and 1995, recalled the bad old days during her induction speech Saturday at the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

“When we won the World Cup in 1991, we made $15 a day,” she said. “That was the per diem, no salaries. No bonuses. It was $15 a day.”

The problem wasn’t always the U.S. federation, though. Often it was FIFA, which will distribute a $700-million prize-money purse this winter in Qatar. The purse for the 2023 women’s tournament hasn’t been finalized, but it’s expected to be about $60 million. Equalizing federation-distributed bonuses for major international tournaments such as the World Cup would require the U.S. men to share, something they eventually agreed to do.

“It’s something that we all looked at and are extremely proud of: to be the first country that has done this, to equalize, across the board, economic terms and prize money,” said Walker Zimmerman, a men’s national team defender and a member of the players union leadership group.

“We saw it as an opportunity to be leaders in this front and join in with the women’s side and U.S. Soccer. We’re just excited that this is how we were able to get the deal done.”

Other countries such as Norway and Australia have agreed to pay their men’s and women’s national teams equally by divvying up things such as World Cup bonuses on a percentage basis. But that means the money actually paid out could differ sharply. The U.S. will place monies won by the men and women into a common bucket and distribute those dollars equally.

The U.S. women, meanwhile, gave up the annual salaries of $100,000 that were paid to 16 national team players each year. Since 2005, every CBA the women have negotiated with U.S. Soccer has included a version of that basic salary structure in recognition of the low wages many women’s pro teams paid.

From left, Briana Scurry, Midge Purce, Kelley O’Hara, Julie Foudy and Cindy Parlow Cone with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before an event to celebrate Equal Pay Day and Women’s History Month in March.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

“We’ve outgrown some of the conditions that may look like we have lost something,” said Midge Purce, a forward with the national team and with Gotham FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. “Our league is actually strong enough where now we don’t need as many guaranteed contracts.”

Until last week’s announcement, the men had been working without a collective agreement since 2018; the women’s CBA expired at the end of March.

Under the new agreements that run through 2028, men’s and women’s players will get identical roster bonuses and performance payments based on the outcome of matches and the world ranking of the opponent. The teams will split broadcast, partner and sponsorship revenues 50-50.

The federation also agreed to provide equality in venues and playing fields, in accommodations at games and training camps, in charter flights and in staffing.

For Cone, who was re-elected in March to a four-year term as U.S. Soccer president, the CBA agreements end a fight she started 23 years ago.

“When I took over the presidency, this was something I wanted to lead on,” she said. “To be the first country to come to terms with both the men’s team and the women’s team and their [players associations] to equalize World Cup prize money and equalize everything, every economic term of the contract.

“I’m just so proud that we we’ve got to this moment.”

Electric Angel City defense cuts off Current

Speaking of the women’s game, Angel City continues to have trouble scoring but is doing just fine when it comes to winning, with Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the visiting Kansas City Current keeping it second in the NWSL standings, three points behind the San Diego Wave, who have played an additional game.

The only goal came in the 70th minute and was well-earned by Angel City forward Christen Press, even if it was credited to Kansas City’s Taylor Leach as an own goal.

After running down a long pass from Savannah McCaskill near the end line, Press tried to center the ball into the penalty area, but defender Elizabeth Ball blocked her first try. Press recovered the ball and tried again, and this time her cross hit Leach and deflected in for a goal.

The shutout for goalkeeper DiDi Haracic was her second of the season and extended her scoreless streak to 267 minutes. Angel City (3-1-0) has scored just three goals of its own this season, but it has given up only two, fewest in the NWSL. And Haracic has been called on to make just five saves, fewest of any regular keeper in the league.

“She’s been solid,” Angel City coach Freya Coombe said. “She thrives on pressure. She’s doing an absolutely great job, and I think she’s building and getting better and better each game.”

Rather be paid in Euros or pounds?

(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The European league season ended Sunday, but the biggest game on the continent this year is still to be played, with Liverpool meeting Real Madrid on Saturday in Paris.

Real Madrid won Spain’s La Liga by 13 points, the second-largest margin in nine seasons. Liverpool finished second in the English Premier League, a point behind Manchester City, which scored three times in the final 15 minutes of Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Aston Villa to win the title.

It’s the fourth time in five seasons Liverpool finished second, third or fourth in the EPL table. It’s also the third time in that span that the Reds have played in the Champions League final, which raises some questions about the importance of individual league races. Consider that in six of the last 10 years, the team that won the European title did not win its respective league crown. In 2012, Chelsea won the Championship League on penalties after finishing sixth in the Premier League.

One reason is the huge financial incentives in Champions League play. Just by reaching the final, Liverpool already has pocketed $91.44 million in prize money, about $2 million more than Real Madrid. Manchester City, by comparison, reportedly received about $54 million for winning the EPL. Paris Saint-Germain, winner of France’s Ligue 1, will get a similar-size winner’s check, while Italian champion AC Milan is expected to get about half as much.

Real Madrid is expected to pocket about $63 million for winning La Liga, while German champion Bayern Munich earned $76 million for winning the Bundesliga last season, a feat it repeated this spring. Teams also share revenue from other sources in addition to the prize money they get for their finishes in the final standings.

That’s made arguing the importance of a domestic title a yearly thing for coaches who don’t make it to the continental final.

“I would say [the Premier League title’s] more difficult. It’s satisfying because it’s every day,” said City manager Pep Guardiola, who has won four EPL titles but no Champions League crowns in Manchester.

That’s the same view Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp once shared, and it’s one expressed by the team’s supporters on the club’s website this month with more than 60% preferring the domestic title to the continental one.

Still, the motivation of prize money probably has less relevance on who succeeds at what level than does the massive crush of games, which places extra importance on squad rotation, tactics and luck. Liverpool, for example, played 63 games in 40 weeks this season — and it lost just three of them. Yet it couldn’t win the EPL.

The Reds will be going for their seventh European title against the same team that beat them in 2018, and both clubs come into the rematch riding huge waves of momentum. Liverpool’s only loss in 34 matches in 2022 came to Inter Milan in the second leg of a round-of-16 Champions Leagues playoff it won on aggregate goals, while Real Madrid, whose 13 Champions League titles already are nearly double anyone else, has won all seven of its trips to the final since 1998.

How the major European leagues finished 2021-22

English Premier League

Champions League qualifiers: Manchester City (29-3-6, 93 points), Liverpool (28-2-8, 92), Chelsea (21-6-11, 74), Tottenham (22-11-5, 71)

Europa League qualifiers: Arsenal (22-13-3, 69), Manchester United (16-12-10, 58)

Europa Conference League: West Ham (16-14-8, 56)

Relegated: Burnley (7-17-14, 35), Watford (6-27-5, 23), Norwich City (5-26-7, 22)

Promoted: Fulham, Bournemouth; Huddersfield Town will play Nottingham Forest on Sunday to determine the third team to advance

League leaders

Goals: Heung-Min Son (Tottenham), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), 23; Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), 18; Harry Kane (Tottenham), 17; Sadio Mane (Liverpool), 16.

Assists: Salah, 13; Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), 12; Mason Mount (Chelsea), Andrew Robinson (Liverpool), Jarrod Brown (West Ham), Harvey Barnes (Leicester City), 10.

Clean sheets: Ederson (Manchester City), Alisson (Liverpool), 20; Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), 16, Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), 14; Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), 12.

Serie A

Champions League qualifiers: AC Milan (26-4-8, 86), Inter Milan (25-4-9, 84), Napoli (24-7-7, 79), Juventus (20-8-10, 70)

Europa League qualifier: Lazio (18-10-10, 64), Roma (18-11-9, 63)

Europa Conference League: Florentina (19-14-5, 62)

Relegated: Cagliari (6-20-12, 30), Genoa (4-18-16, 28), Venezia (6-23-9, 27)

Promoted: Lecce, Cremonese; Pisa will face Monza in a two-leg playoff this week to determine the third team to advance

League leaders

Goals: Ciro Immobile (Lazio), 27; Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), 24; Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), 21; Giovanni Simeone (Hallas Verona), Tammy Abraham (Roma), 17.

Assists: Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), 14; Hakan Calhanoglu (Inter Milan), Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan), 12; Sergei Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), 11; Antonio Candreva (Sampdoria), Luis Alberto (Lazio), 10.

Clean sheets: Mike Maignan (AC Milan), 17; Rui Patricio (Roma), Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan), 15; David Ospina (Napoli), 13; Lukasz Skorupski (Bologna), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus), 12.

La Liga

Champions League qualifiers: Real Madrid (29-4-8, 86), Barcelona (21-7-10, 73), Atletico Madrid (21-9-8), 71), Sevilla (18-4-16, 70)

Europa League qualifier: Real Betis (19-11-8, 65), Real Sociedad (17-10-11, 62)

Europa Conference League: Villarreal (16-11-11, 59)

Relegated: Granada (8-16-14, 38), Levante (8-19-11, 35), Deportivo Alaves (8-23-7, 31)

Promoted: Eibar and Almeria lead the La Liga 2 table with one game to play. The next three teams in the final standings advance to a playoff to determine the third team to advance

League leaders

Goals: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), 27; Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), 18; Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Raul de Tomas (Espanyol), 17; Juanmi (Real Betis), Enes Unal (Getafe), 16

Assists: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), 13; Benzema, 12; Iker Muniain (Athletic Club), Junior, Daniel Parejo (Villarreal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), 10.

Clean sheets: Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad), 19; (Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), 16; Matias Dituro (Celta Vigo), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal), 14; Jeremias Ledesma (Cadiz), David Soria (Getafe), Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), 13

Bundesliga

Champions League qualifiers: Bayern Munich (25-5-5, 77), Borussia Dortmund (22-9-3, 69), Bayer Leverkusen (19-8-7, 64), RB Leipzig (17-10-7, 58)

Europa League qualifiers: Union Berlin (16-9-9, 57), Freiburg (15-9-10, 55)

Europa Conference League: Cologne (14-10-10, 52)

Relegation qualification: Hertha Berlin (9-19-6, 33)

Relegated: Arminia Bielefeld (5-16-13, 28), Greuther Furth (3-22-9, 18)

Promoted: FC Schalke, Werder Bremen, Hertha BSC

League leaders

Goals: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), 35; Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen), 24; Erling Haaland (Borussia Dormund), 22; Anthony Modeste (Cologne), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), 20

Assists: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), 18; Nkunku 13; Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen), Marco Reus, (Borussia Dortmund), 12; David Raum (Hoffenheim), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), 11

Clean sheets: Robin Zentner (Mainz), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Mark Flekken (Freiburg), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich, 10; Rafal Gikiewicz (Augsburg), Peter Gulacsi (RB Leipzig), 9

Ligue 1

Champions League qualifiers: Paris Saint-Germain (26-4-8, 86), Marseille (21-9-8, 71)

Champions League qualification tournament: Monaco (20-9-9, 69)

Europa League qualifier: Rennes (20-12-6, 66)

Europa Conference League: Nice (20-11-7, 66; Nice was deducted one point for crowd trouble)

Relegation qualification: Saint-Etienne (7-20-11, 32)

Relegated: Metz (6-19-13, 31), Bordeaux (6-19-13, 31)

Promoted: Toulouse, AC Ajaccio; Auxerre will play Saint-Etienne in a two-leg playoff to determine the final spot in Ligue 1 next season

League leaders

Goals: Kylian Mbappe (PSG), 28; Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), 25; Martin Terrier (Rennes), Moussa Dembele (Lyon), 21; Andy Delort (Nice), 18.

Assists: Mbappe 17; Lionel Messi (PSG), 14; Benjamin Bourigeaud (Rennes), 12; Jonathan Clauss (Lens), 11; Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Hamari Traore (Rennes), 10.

Clean sheets: Walter Benitez (Nice), 14; Matz Sels (Strasbourg), 13; Predrag Rajkovic (Reims), Alexander Nubel (Monaco), 11; Pau Lopez (Marseille), Alfred Gomis (Rennes), 10.

LAFC, Galaxy updates

(Getty Images)

Inside the LAFC and Galaxy locker rooms, players have been looking ahead to this week’s U.S. Open Cup showdown since the pairing was announced a couple of weeks ago. But both teams had some MLS business to take care of first.

For LAFC, that meant enduring the longest match in franchise history Saturday, but at least it had something to show for it at the end: a 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew that ended the team’s season-worst two-game winless streak.

A massive storm delayed the start of the game by nearly three hours. Then 2 minutes 34 seconds after play finally began, the match was halted for another 70 minutes. The goals came from Carlos Vela and José Cifuentes, both of whom entered the game just past the hour mark. For Vela, the goal was his second in two games after a six-game scoring drought.

“There was a lot that didn’t go our way,” LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said. “But to be fair, it was the same for both teams. There was not ideal conditions for either team.”

The long day came at a particularly inopportune time for LAFC (8-3-2), which is in the middle of two-week stretch in which it will play five times in three states and three time zones. Yet the win expanded its lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings to two points over Austin.

“The wait for the game was difficult, but we demonstrated the personality of the team,” forward Brian Rodriguez said in Spanish.

Houston Dynamo forward Sebastián Ferreira scores against the Galaxy in the first half.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Galaxy, meanwhile, had neither travel nor weather to blame for their poor performance in a 3-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo because they were playing in Carson under sunny skies. They were booed off the field for the second time in as many home games, which they lost by a combined score of 6-1.

The Galaxy (6-5-2) had the ball for 65 of the 90 minutes, outshot the Dynamo 16-14 and put six of those tries on target but couldn’t score.

“They guys were a little embarrassed with the outcome today,” coach Greg Vanney said.

Probably embarrassed too that they’re in a slide in which they have won just two of their last seven games. The Galaxy have given up seven goals in their last three games, matching the number they allowed in the first 10 games of the season combined. And they’ve had just four goals of their own in their last seven games, scoring multiple goals just three times in 14 games.

They didn’t score at all in four of those games, leaving them with a negative goal differential for the first time this season.

“[To] play nice and lose games is unacceptable,” Vanney said. “We have to find the ugly and the fight and the competitive side and the killer instinct to win games.”

And finally there’s this …

Catarina Macario became the first U.S. international to score in a Champions League final Saturday, helping Lyon to a 3-1 win over Barcelona in the women’s final. The title is the eighth for the French giants. For Barcelona, the loss was just the second in 45 matches this season. … Mexico’s national soccer federation has signed a record six-year contract with longtime partner United Marketing to promote its national teams in the U.S. The deal, which begins next year, will for the first time include Mexico’s women’s national team as well as the men. … For the first time, the officiating crews at a men’s World Cup will include women, FIFA announced last week. The governing body for global soccer released the list of the 129 referees, assistant referees and video replay officials for this fall’s tournament in Qatar. It included three female center referees and three assistant referees. Included in the second group are American Kathryn Nesbitt and Mexican Karen DíazMedina. Other American officials selected were referee Ismail Elfath, assistant referees Kyle Atkins and Corey Parker, and video-assistant referee Armando Villarreal.

In case you missed it

Mexico’s national soccer federation enters into U.S. promotional deal

USMNT World Cup camp roster includes a few surprises and some key omissions

U.S. Soccer achieves equal pay goal, splitting World Cup revenue evenly between men, women

Galaxy, LAFC in top half of MLS payrolls; ‘Chicharito’ second-highest paid player

Podcast

Don’t miss my weekly podcast on the Corner of the Galaxy site as co-host Josh Guesman and I discuss the Galaxy each Monday. You can listen to the most recent podcast here.

Quotebook

“I would like to announce that I have chosen to extend my contract at Paris Saint-Germain, and of course I am delighted.”

Kylian Mbappe, who led Ligue 1 in goals and assists this season, on his decision to spurn an offer from Real Madrid and re-sign with the French club

Until next time...

Stay tuned for future newsletters. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter: @kbaxter11.


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