London • For Team USA, Thursday’s soccer match with Japan isn’t just a battle for gold. It’s also for cold hard cash.
The U.S. women will share $1.5 million dollars, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said, if they win the anticipated rematch of last year’s World Cup title game at historic Wembley Stadium.
» Members of the U.S. women’s team will share a $1.5 million bonus if they beat Japan on Thursday.
» The U.S. lost in a shootout to Japan in the World Cup final last year.
» After the Olympics, the U.S. will play as many as 10 friendlies throughout the United States.
"There’s a lot of money at stake," said Gulati, who met in London with a small group of reporters Wednesday morning.
If the bonus were simply split evenly among each member of the active roster, every player would receive more than $83,000. However, Gulati said the players’ association had the freedom to divide the bonus however it likes, such as including the alternates or the training staff.
Generally, members of the national team are either under contract — which each woman playing at the Olympics is — or get paid per game. At the Olympics, however, the players’ association will receive the $1.5 million bonus, which can be divided in any manner. The bonus is in addition to the cash prizes awarded by the U.S. Olympic Committee to its medalists: $25,000 for gold-medal winners, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.
Gulati said U.S. Soccer also awards a bonus for winning silver at the Olympics, the least the Americans are assured by virtue of reaching the championship match. He said he did not know how much the bonus is.
It’s the same bonus the women would have received had they defeated Japan in the World Cup.
Because national team soccer players do not receive the compensation of other high-level, marketable athletes, it can be tougher to make a living.
Gulati said U.S. Soccer continues to evaluate the options for its players, including starting a league — there is presently not a major professional league — or establishing a permanent residency program.
"We’re in some around-the-clock detailed discussions about what a framework might look like for a set-up starting next spring," Gulati said.
Women’s soccer has struggled to attract mainstream fans in non-Olympic or World Cup seasons, even when games like Monday’s thriller against Canada became a top-of-the-list water cooler conversation topic.
Close games, which the U.S. women have made a habit of being in, raise interest in the sport temporarily. And don’t think American leadership will waste the opportunity to raise its team’s profile in the wake of at least a silver medal at the Olympics.
Starting Sept. 1 in Rochester, N.Y., the team will go on a national tour, playing up to 10 friendlies against international opponents.
The number of games, Gulati said, will be dictated by whether the U.S. wins or loses. Rochester is the only confirmed site for the tour, and it makes plenty of sense. The 32-year-old Wambach is a native of the upstate New York town. U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn said the team tries to schedule games in players’ hometowns if possible.
"You do factor in a little bit if you can get a hometown," Flynn said. "It’s a nice thing, particularly for the veterans."
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