Canada Women’s Soccer and Equal Pay

By Anya Weerapana

Walking out onto the field for a match against the United States, players of Canada’s Women’s National Soccer Team (CanWNT) did not don their official uniforms with Canada Soccer’s crest. Instead, they opted for purple T-shirts with this phrase on the front: “Enough is enough.” Their on-field demonstration was a continuation of protests started before the kickoff of the SheBelieves Cup; mere days before their game, the Canadian players went on strike. 

According to a statement released by the Canadian Soccer Players Association (a union formed by the men’s and women’s National Team players), none of the participating CanWNT players in Women’s World Cup qualifying throughout 2022 had received compensation for their playing time. Further, the Canadian Soccer Association announced several budget cuts to both National Teams, releasing financial transactions after calls for transparency from the public. The data included in the recently-released reports highlighted severe pay inequities between the men’s and women’s squads, despite the women’s team being a historically better-performing side. The Canadian Soccer Association threatened to sue the players on strike, forcing CanWNT back into training camp where, thanks to imposed budget cuts, they were met with limited medical and training staff. 

This type of pay inequity is not unusual in the women’s game: the United States’ women’s soccer squad famously fought for equal pay for several years, and in 2022 signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (or CBA), ensuring equal compensation between the U.S. men’s and women’s teams. Canadian players are now looking to mirror America’s CBA if talks with the Canadian Soccer Association are successful.

“Equal pay in sports has always been an issue that felt really important to me,” said Katherine Danik ’25, a member of Winsor Varsity Soccer. “Especially with the United States, the fact that the men’s team, who didn’t even qualify for the World Cup, got paid more than the women’s team, which has won [the Women’s World Cup] four times, was insane. I hadn’t heard anything about the situation with Canada until now, but that really proves that the fight [for equal pay] isn’t over even if the United States got what they wanted.” Nell Sparks ’25 agreed with Danik’s statement: “I think that seeing these pay discrepancies and disputes in at the highest level of sports is quite discouraging, not only for me but for every other little girl playing soccer out there. Holding administrations accountable for their actions and having said actions and finances be public record is a good start to achieving equal pay.”

So while the United States’ women’s team flew to their next game in a chartered jet, CanWNT’s players were huddled in the airport, waiting for a commercial flight. Just a few months before the SheBelieves Cup, the Canadian men’s team flew privately to friendlies in Slovakia and then the World Cup in Qatar, where they placed last in their group. While the American women warmed up before the opening match of the SheBelieves Cup, the Canadian women lugged equipment onto the field, something the nation’s men’s players did not have to do in their recent friendlies or at the World Cup. Some federations have worn purple wristbands in their warmups in solidarity with CanWNT—the United States included. 

But, in the end, are purple wristbands really enough to influence change? CanWNT’s hopes to resolve this pay dispute come with just five months until the Women’s World Cup. Signing a CBA is not a simple process: it involves the cooperation of lawyers, executives, players, and staff. CanWNT is putting in overtime for a federation that isn’t compensating them fairly; they can only hope that higher-ups in the Canadian Soccer Association cooperate and create an agreement that is truly equitable for every member of the Canadian National Teams.