A judge has ruled that the US Women's National Soccer Team has insufficient evidence to bring their claim of unequal pay to trial, delivering a major blow to the four-time World Cup champions' lawsuit.
In an order issued Friday, US District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner granted the US Soccer Federation's motion for summary judgment to dismiss the key component of the women players' lawsuit, leaving just their claim of discrimination based on travel conditions and medical and training support viable for trial.
"In sum, [US Soccer] has offered evidence in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment that the [women's national team] has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the [men's national team] over the class period," the order read.
With regard to the evidence that the women's team presented, including that they are paid lower bonuses for friendlies and that they would have made more under the men's national team's collective bargaining agreement than they did under their own contract, Klausner said the evidence is "insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial."
Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the women players, said they planned to appeal the judge's decision.
"We are shocked and disappointed with today's decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay," Levinson said on Twitter. "We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender."
US Soccer did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.
The decision comes weeks after the federation came under fire for arguing in legal filings that women athletes are less skilled and work less demanding jobs than their male counterparts.
The comments sparked a protest from the players, who wore their warm-up jerseys inside out, hiding the US Soccer crest before a match against Japan, as well as retribution from major sponsors like Coke, Budweiser, and Visa. Hours after the protest, US Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro resigned.
The court also granted US Soccer's motion to dismiss the claim of discrimination based on a disparity between the field surfaces the men and women play on, but found that the players did have sufficient evidence to support their claim that the federation subjected the women to inferior travel conditions.
In March 2019, 28 members of the 2015 women’s team sued the federation over gender discrimination. In the complaint, the players accused their governing body of shortchanging them in pay and working conditions when compared to the men’s national team, which has not played nearly as well, didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and has not attracted anywhere close to the record ratings and audiences as their women counterparts.
The team's fight for equal pay galvanized fans and the public as they embarked on the journey to a record-fourth World Cup win last summer. Shortly after the final whistle blew, the crowd in Lyon, France, erupted into chants of "equal pay!"
In light of the decision Friday, Becky Sauerbrunn, a defender on the national team, tweeted, "If you know this team at all you know we have a lot of fight left in us."
"We knew this wasn't going to be easy, change never is," Sauerbrunn said.