Pay and Performance in Men’s and Women’s Football: Comparing the MLS and NWSL

Dennis Coates and Meredith Webber

The purpose of this research is two-fold; first, to assess whether men and women football players “perform the same work,” as required for wage discrimination, and second, to compare pay and performance for men and women players in the top professional soccer leagues in the US. We utilize data from Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League over the period 2016 through 2019 to compare how performance translates into team success in the two leagues and to forecast the salaries of women players for comparison with the men. Our results show that the determinants of win production are the same for the men’s and women’s teams, indicating that men and women do similar work. Additionally, the average woman player would earn more than the average male player if performance were compensated the same way in both leagues for the same number of games.