Andy Scholes walks through US Soccer’s landmark equal pay deal with FIFA. (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
For a moment, the world came undone. A once-great American team, the greatest team in U.S. history, was overtaken by a soccer superpower, one that not only dominated but built the game of soccer to a place in the sports world it had never been before.
In December of 2008, as MLS and Major League Soccer’s Players’ Associations celebrated their collective three-year partnership for the first time, FIFA announced that the league would be paying equal salaries to its players with those of the country’s top professional teams. There was a brief discussion as to whether US soccer would follow suit and equalize salaries with professional clubs in the United Kingdom and Spain.
For a moment, the world stood in shock. The league had gone against everything it stood for. The league had turned its back on FIFA. It had done so seemingly out of stubbornness, and perhaps, the belief that the league’s owners didn’t want to lose their competitive advantage. But more than anything, it felt like they were rejecting something they loved.
A decision so important to the future of the game would have seemed like a no-brainer for US soccer.
But the league’s decision was far from a no-brainer. The league knew it had to pay its players a living wage. And most importantly, it knew that the world was watching in awe as the game of professional soccer became mainstream. When MLS and the US Soccer Federation announced their plans for a collective agreement, it didn’t just represent one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of the sport. It was the first step towards equal pay for all players, and thus, the future of one of the greatest sports in the world.
Despite the fact that the league and the federation did not release their agreement until after the World Cup