The pay gap between the sexes is a huge issue that is still not been completely resolved as of 2014. In almost all aspects of society, women are paid considerably less for the same job and responsibilities as their male co-workers. Unfortunately this applies to female athletes in most sports, including soccer (or football for those who don’t live in the USA). While the David Beckham‘s of the soccer world are paid millions of dollars a year to play the game, the women in this list only earn thousands of dollars a year for the same career. While this list only shows yearly salaries for playing soccer, this fact is still true when considering additional money from corporate sponsorships since the men earn millions of dollars more than their female counterparts as well.
The reasons for this gap are more nuanced than the usual “glass ceiling” archetype of sexism. Women’s sports aren’t watched by as many people so they don’t make as much money, and many would argue that women aren’t taught to stick up for themselves during salary negotiations unlike their male counterparts.
Whatever the reasons, here is the top nine list of highest paid female athletes as of 2014. Hopefully there salaries will reflect their talent on a similar level as their male counterparts.
All salaries have been converted to their value in United States dollars when necessary. Also please take note of the fact that most of the salaries are put together under the National Women’s Soccer League rules. This means that players are free to play in other countries while still representing their home countries in international competitions.
9. Sarah Huffman – $25,000 – USA
Sarah Huffman became noticed for her soccer playing abilities when she attended the University of Virginia. Sarah is still one of the top players in at her college since she won the NSCAA All-American, Soccer America MVP, and Virginia State Player of the Year awards. Sarah’s professional career in the United States has also been filed with various accolades and awards. In 2012, Huffman helped lead the Pali Blues in California to an undefeated season in 2012 along with the Western Conference championship. In 2014, Sarah was traded to the Portland Thorns so she could live with her spouse Abby Wambach (who is also on this list) in their house in Oregon.
8. Cecilia Santiago – $28,968 – Mexico
Cecilia Santiago has quickly become a star for the women’s soccer movement in Mexico. Her career started with Club Santos Laguna in 2010 and became more famous in North America when she decided to play for the Boston Breakers in 2013. Cecilia has not forgotten about her home country though and her achievements as goalkeeper for Mexico are numerous. When she was sixteen, her skills helped Mexico achieve their first point ever in a Women’s World Cup event when her team tied against England in a 2011 match. If that’s not enough, she was the youngest player at the 2008 U20 World Cup in Chile while representing Mexico when she was fourteen years old. What were you doing when you were fourteen?
7. Adriana Leon – $36,422 – Canada
Adriana Leon kicked off her soccer career when she accepted an athletic scholarship for the University of Notre Dame women’s soccer team. She was quickly noticed when she scored the only goal for the Fighting Irish when they defeated Stanford Cardinal during the NCAA national championship tournament. This achievement helped lead to Adriana being transferred to the University of Florida’s women’s soccer team during her sophomore year. Leon was the sixth leading score of the team and her abilities helped the Gators win a Southern Conference championship in 2012.
Her professional career would see her playing for the Boston Breakers before being traded to the Chicago Red Stars in 2013. On the international scene, Leon has been an integral part of the women’s Canadian soccer team ever since she scored the game winning goal against China during a close match in the 2013 Four Nations Tournament.
6. Rhian Wilkinson – $54,633 – Canada
Rhian Wilkinson grew up in an athletically driven Canadian family that encouraged her to sharpen her abilities in the game of soccer. This support system helped Rhian earn a place in the women’s soccer team at the University of Tennessee. She became the Offensive Player of the Year for the Lady Vols in 2002 before playing in a Norwegian professional league for eight seasons. Afterwards, she signed on to the Boston Breakers in the National Women’s Soccer League and has been playing for them since 2013. Wilkinson’s greatest achievements would occur while playing for Canada. She helped the team win a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games and a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games. Wilkinson also helped the women’s Canadian team win an Olympic bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Let’s not forget that Rhian Wilkinson knows how to play the cello and the trumpet as well. These skills have made her a member of the Suzuki Strings Orchestra since 1994.
5. Sydney Leroux – $60,000 – USA
Sydney Leroux originally pursued baseball like her parents (Canadian mother and American father) had until she found herself enjoying soccer more when she attended Johnston Heights Secondary School. This interest led to her living with host families in the United States in order to be able to compete with the United States women’s national soccer team. This tough decision proved to be successful when she was accepted to UCLA so she could play for the Bruins from 2008-2011. Sydney quickly became a crucial part of the time and her achievements for the school peaked in her senior year with them in 2011. By then she had led her team in scoring for three straight years, was a semi-finalist for the Hermann Trophy, and scored her first hat trick of the season in a 6-1 victory over Arizona State. She finished her college career ranked fourth in UCLA history in points, goals, and game-winning goals.
Her professional career technically started with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2005 when she was fifteen years old but her contribution wasn’t really substantial until she returned to the Whitecaps in 2011. Her ability to score the game winning goal against the Santa Clarita Blue Heat in the Western Conference Final made her the 2011 W-League Rookie of the Year. This excellence led to her playing in the United States for the Atlanta Beat and Seattle Sounders Women teams in 2012, followed by the Boston Breakers in 2013.
On the international scene, Sydney’s decision to change her allegiance from Canada to the United States drew a lot of criticism from Canadian fans. That didn’t stop her from helping the United States win a gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
4. Heather O’Reilly – $65,000 – USA
Heather O’Reilly won the 2002 Gatorade High School National Player of the Year for her soccer abilities when she was going to high school in East Brunswick, New Jersey. She majored in education at the University of North Carolina and played for their women’s soccer team for three years. She scored over fifty goals during her tenure and her abilities quickly became noticed by soccer aficionados. Although she played for numerous professional teams, her most notable one was for the Boston Breakers (there seems to be a theme here) for the newly formed National Women’s Soccer Soccer League since 2012 along with many of the other women on this list. Her accomplishments for the U.S. soccer team are most notable since she helped the Americans achieve numerous medals over the years. Heather would help the U.S. earn a bronze medal in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a gold medal in the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
3. Alex Morgan – $70,000 – USA
Ahh the ultra-popular Alex Morgan. I’ve written about her before but she really is one of my favorite players in women’s soccer right now. Alex started playing soccer when she was fourteen years old and was named an NSCAA All-American while in high school. Morgan would then go to college at the University of California and be the leading scorer for the California Bears. Alex then became the youngest player on the 2011 U.S. team in the FIFA World Cup. She would help the team win second place in the competition. Morgan would also play an important part for the U.S. team at the 2012 Summer Olympics by scoring the game winning goal against Canada. This allowed the USA to play and win against Japan for the gold medal.
Many readers may point out that Alex has numerous deals with big corporations such as Coca-Cola which would put her yearly income above $70,000 a year but this list is about money earned through playing soccer without any corporate sponsorships.
2. Abby Wambach – $190,000 – USA
Abby Wambach quickly showed herself to be tougher than most male soccer athletes when she would frequently compete against them in high school. Abby would score over 140 goals during her tenure as a high school soccer player and was in the top 10 of recruits for women’s soccer, according to USA Today in 1997. This led to Abby being admitted to the University of Florida so she could play for their women’s soccer team. Wambach won multiple MVP honors, and first-team All-American awards as she helped lead the Gators to the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament in 2001. She would play for numerous teams on a professional level such as the Washington Freedom and the Western New York Flash. However, Abby has really shown her abilities on the international stage while playing the U.S. women’s national soccer team. A few highlights include helping her team win a gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics, a gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics, and another gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
She’s kind of a big deal.
1. Marta Vieira – $400,000 – Brazil
Marta Vieira began her soccer career when she was noticed by Helena Pacheco, a famous Brazilian female soccer coach when she was fourteen years old. Marta would play for numerous small clubs in order to gain experience until she finally played for Umea IK, a professional Swedish team, in 2004. Her exceptional abilities helped make her popular to Swedish audiences until she decided to play for the Los Angeles Sol in 2008, and the Western New York Flash in 2011. Marta’s greatest achievements would be for her home country as she helped Brazil win a silver medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics. You know that you’re a great soccer player when fans consider you the female version of Pele, one of the greatest soccer players who ever lived.