In May, UKG and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced a historic partnership to increase the bonus pool for NWSL players in the Challenge Cup and make the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup the first-ever women’s professional soccer tournament to achieve pay equity with their U.S. peers in the men’s game. UKG is also partnering with top players, including Sydney Leroux, a forward for Angel City FC in Los Angeles, as part of its Close the Gap Initiative, to further advocate for closing the pay gap in every field. Here, we chat with Leroux about equality, perseverance, starting a family, and more.
Today, athletes as young as high school are signing endorsement deals and sponsorships. What would you tell your high-school-age self about your fight for pay equity given your history of advocacy? I would encourage athletes to educate themselves on the deals that have already happened but sometimes you need to make the change happen yourself. Be courageous in asking for what you want because often, endorsement deals for female athletes are the first deals of their kind. I have seen this and been a part of it at the professional level. Now it’s starting at a very young age. Young athletes should be sure they have the right people around them advocating on their behalf.
How does being an advocate for pay equality for the UKG Close the Gap initiative fit with your personal goals and passions outside of soccer? Equality in general is something we should strive for in every category—whether that’s pay, race, or gender. It is my goal to fight for equality everywhere.
What’s one piece of advice you share with your fans? Never give up, no matter what. If you want something bad enough, just keep going. The journey is important too—where you started versus where you are. When you’re in it, you don’t always know where you are at one moment. But looking back, you realize what you accomplished. You see the progress. It’s about persevering to reach your goals, but also enjoying the journey and path to get there.
“I want the world to be better for my children. I will fight for that.”
You’ve shared that being a mother to Cassius and Roux inspires your advocacy work. How does motherhood influence your platform for pay equity? I want the world to be better for my children and I will fight for that. I want them to see my fight and know that they can advocate for what they believe in too. Having children motivates you to make the world a better place. Life is a lot different now, and I am inspired to make the world better for my children and for every child.
You briefly stopped playing professional soccer to start your family. What advice do you have for individuals (women and men) who take a break from their careers to start a family and then find themselves facing workplace inequities for this choice? It’s difficult that when you become a parent, sometimes your career must take a back seat. People try to balance it all but really there is no perfect balance—something must take a hit. It is so important to show your children that you can take a step back and be in the moment with them. You can’t predict exactly what will happen and what it will be like when you become a parent. My pregnancies were so different. I didn’t know what to expect with either, or what it would be like coming back to work with one child or two, for that matter. Being able to pause, be in the moment, and be OK with where you are is very important. Personally, coming back to soccer was challenging because I use my body for my job. But I am so happy I did because I can show my children that mommy is still chasing her dream. That is something I can be proud of.
A few rapid-fire questions … What’s your go-to warm-up song? “Get Into It” by Doja Cat.
Favorite post-game meal: A gyro—it’s been my top choice for the past two years.
Best way to spend a day off: Quality time with my kids. I love playing soccer with Cassius—we do that every day.
Who inspires you? My mom. She is my best friend in the universe and is someone I trust with my entire life. She always pushes me and believes in me. If I can be half the mom that my mom was to me, then I am doing pretty well.