U.S. Women's Soccer Team to Receive Pay Equal to Men's in Historic Deal: 'Extreme Pride'

"It's tough to get so, so excited about something that we really should have had all along," USWNT's Becky Sauerbrunn tells Today of the equal-pay deal

Megan Rapinoe
U.S. women's national soccer team after World Cup win in 2019. Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Every man and woman in U.S. Soccer will now receive equal pay.

Today revealed the news exclusively on Wednesday, sharing that the athletic organization will also become the first of its kind to divide World Cup prize money.

"It's equalization of World Cup prize money, identical financial terms, including identical game payments, identical revenue sharing for both teams, so identical in every aspect on that front," U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone told the show.

Becky Sauerbrunn, captain of the U.S. Women's National Team, told Today that she is "feeling extreme pride" amid the news, "And to be able to say finally, equal pay for equal work feels very, very good."

However, "It's tough to get so, so excited about something that we really should have had all along," added Sauerbrunn, 36.

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The update comes less than three months after the USWNT reached a settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation back in February, following a six-year fight for equal pay.

In a joint statement released and obtained by PEOPLE at the time, the two organizations confirmed that they'd reached an agreement in a class action gender discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by multiple stars of the World Cup winning team in 2019. Under the agreement, U.S. Soccer agreed to pay $22 million to the USWNT players.

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Additionally, U.S. Soccer was set to pay $2 million to the USWNT players specifically for post-career goals and charitable efforts, according to a press release from the governing body.

"We are pleased to announce that, contingent on the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement, we will have resolved our longstanding dispute over equal pay and proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer," the statement from U.S. Soccer and the USWNT read, in part.

U.S. Soccer also announced that they had committed to an equal-pay rate between Women's and Men's national teams going forward in friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup.

olympic gold medals
U.S. women's national soccer team. Getty

In a recent, exclusive interview with PEOPLE about her podcast We Can Do Hard Things with wife and author Glennon Doyle, retired soccer star Abby Wambach opened up about her reaction to the USWNT's legal victory over the U.S. Soccer Federation in February.

Wambach, 41, told PEOPLE last week that the greater impact is far larger than this one case.

"It's a huge deal because it's also not just a statement for this team and soccer," she said. "This is a statement for women everywhere."

She added that women in any industry can benefit from the verdict: "Another woman looking at an article, or hearing or reading this can think to themselves, 'Wait, am I getting paid the same as my male counterparts? How should I figure that out?' "

"I'm so happy for them," Wambach told PEOPLE, though the change came after her own career on the field ended in 2015. "I feel 5% jealous that I wasn't on the team when this equal pay settlement happened. But the truth is, things happen when they're meant to happen."

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