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The United States team celebrates a win against Wales during a FIFA Women's World Cup send-off soccer match in San Jose, Calif., on July 9, 2023.The Canadian Press

A group of players across the globe asked FIFA late last year to increase the prize money for this summer’s Women’s World Cup. There had been pleas from the women to boost those funds before, but this time it was different.

The players not only wanted a prize pool equal with the men’s World Cup, they also sought a guarantee that a percentage of the prize money would go directly to the players themselves.

While it wasn’t true equity with the men’s World Cup, FIFA indeed raised the prize pool for the women’s tournament by more than three times that of the 2019 event in France.

But more than that, soccer’s governing body agreed in June that a chunk of those funds should be paid straight to the players – all 732 of them. Every player will earn at least US$30,000, with the amount increasing the further along that teams progress in the tournament. The 23 players in the title-winning squad will each get US$270,000.

That’s significant for many of the players, who in some cases don’t have club teams that pay salaries, are semi-pros or even amateurs. FIFA released a report last year that said the average salary for female players was US$14,000 ($18,500) a year.

And not only that, the conditions the players will experience on the ground in Australia and New Zealand – such as travel and accommodations – are now equitable to those provided the men.

“We still have a ways to go, but having them direct the payments to players is huge – it’s a life-changing thing for many of these players entering the tournament. Coming away with each player making $30,000 is huge because usually that money goes to federations and those players don’t see any, or much of that money,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said.

A US$152-million fund was set for the first 32-team Women’s World Cup. The total covers prize money, team preparation and payments to players’ clubs. That’s a big boost from the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, which had a US$40-million fund, with US$30-million in prize money.

In contrast, the prize money pool for the men’s World Cup last year in Qatar was US$440-million. The countries that got knocked out after the group stage made US$9-million apiece.

FIFPRO, the global players union, backed the effort by 150 players from 25 countries – including the United States, Japan and Germany – to push FIFA for more equitable terms. The result was a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino dated Oct. 19, 2022. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

“It’s really positive that we have shown them [the players] what’s possible through their collective voice – through their collective action and the solidarity that they have between each other – and this really intrinsic, inherent drive to want to push the women’s game forward and create sustainable models for themselves and for the industry more broadly,” said Sarah Gregorius, FIFPRO’s director global policy and strategic relations for women’s soccer.

“It just shows what happens when players come together united behind very clear principles for change for themselves, but also a legacy for players to come,” she added.

Earlier this year, Infantino said that the ultimate goal is equity between the men’s and women’s games by the 2026 Men’s World Cup and the 2027 women’s edition.

The U.S. bargained for equal pay with their male counterparts in a groundbreaking agreement reached last year that will split tournament winnings equally among all players. But the United States is the only country that has such an arrangement.

For many teams at the World Cup, that kind of equality isn’t realistic. So the US$30,000 can mean a college education, even a down payment on a home. And for those who aren’t paid well – or at all – by their clubs, it can mean a chance to play without having another job.

“That is a lot of money, and it can be used for a lot of things. I know definitely a lot of my teammates are happy for that money. I’m definitely happy for that money,” said Michelle Alozie, who plays for Nigeria and the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League.

The prize money pool trickles down to all participating teams. The 16 countries that exit the group stage will get a total of US$2.25-million apiece from FIFA – US$690,000 to share among the players and US$1,560,000 for the federation.

FIFA will pay US$10.5-million to the title-winning nation. The majority of that, US$6.21-million, will be distributed among the players with the remaining US$4.29-million going to the federation.

In addition to helping pay the players, the teams and federations that haven’t often seen the big stage will benefit, too. Each team is receiving nearly US$1-million in preparation funds.

“It means a lot to every player stepping into that tournament because it really means that the women’s game has finally taken the steps that we’ve been fighting for,” U.S. defender Crystal Dunn said. “We’re playing for federations to do better by their players. And I think this prize money is a testament to all of our fights – the collective fight.

“When we step on to the field, yes, we are opponents, but at the end of the day we’re all fighting for this game to grow, and for everybody.”

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