U.S. Women’s Soccer Players File Wage Discrimination Lawsuit

The suit argues that the women’s team has brought in more revenue for the U.S. Soccer Federation, despite the pay gap.

Five prominent members of the U.S. Women's National Team on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for wage discrimination. The suit alleges that despite the team's accomplishments, they are still paid significantly less than their less-successful counterparts on the men's national team.

USWNT co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, along with Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, and Megan Rapinoe — who all played key roles in the team's 2015 World Cup championship — are filing the lawsuit with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New York Times first reported.

The players' affidavit, obtained by BuzzFeed News, highlights the disparity between the team's accomplishments and economic contributions to the federation, and the gap in pay compared to the men's national team.

It notes that despite U.S. Soccer's projection of a $429,999 loss for the national teams between April 2015 and March 2016, the federation now expects a profit of $17.7 million, "thanks almost exclusively to the WNT."

The federation continues to pay its female athletes significantly less than their male counterparts, however, for friendlies (international matches outside of tournaments), the World Cup, and other forms of compensation like public appearances.

In another example, the affidavit notes that while both teams are required to play 20 friendlies each year, the women earn a $1,350 bonus if they win, and no compensation for a loss or tie.

The men's national team players, by comparison, earns a minimum of $5,000 per played game, regardless of the outcome. If they tie or defeat their opponent, the players can earn anywhere between $6,250 and $17,625 per game, depending on the other team's rank.

The players' attorney, Jeff Kesler, told BuzzFeed News that previous efforts to negotiate with the USSF have been largely unsuccessful.

"The USSF has said the women are asking for much too much of an increase, and that they've devoted money to other needs of the federation," he said, noting that players do not feel this is an adequate reason not to pay them more going forward.

But, Kessler said, they are also seeking retroactive pay in their lawsuit.

Some of the players discussed the wage gap issue on NBC's Today show Thursday.

"I think the timing is right,'' Lloyd said. "I think that we've proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. And we want to continue to fight."

The players filed the lawsuit the day after the men's national soccer team failed to qualify for a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio for the second consecutive time.

Solo added that the several collective bargaining agreements players have been through have proven ineffective.

"We believe now the time is right because we believe it's a responsibility for women's sports, specifically women's soccer, to really do whatever it takes for equal pay and equal rights and to be treated with respect," the goalkeeper said.

In a statement, the U.S. Soccer Federation stood by its "unwavering" efforts to advocate for women's soccer, citing its campaign to introduce women's soccer to the Olympics in 1996, its decision to grant prize money for World Cup play, and the establishment of the National Women's Soccer League.

"We are committed to and engaged in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses compensation with the Women's National Team Players Association, to take effect when the current CBA expires at the end of this year," the federation said.

The lawsuit comes amid a contested year between the women's national team and the national governing soccer body.

On Dec. 7, the team canceled a game in Hawaii on their post–World Cup victory tour because of the unsafe field conditions. Rapinoe suffered a serious injury a few days prior on another practice field there.

Read the players' affidavit here.

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