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Next Battle for Champion U.S. Women's Soccer Team: Equal Pay Lawsuit

LYON, FRANCE - JULY 07: Megan Rapinoe of the USA lifts the FIFA Women's World Cup Trophy following her team's victory in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Final match between The United States of America and The Netherlands at Stade de Lyon on July 07, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 08, 2019

The U.S. women's national soccer team just won their second Women's World Cup trophy in a row in France on Sunday, but they may have an even tougher challenge ahead when they get home. The team will enter mediation with the U.S. Soccer Federation as soon as possible after their return, to resolve a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by 28 players in March.

The women are seeking equal pay on par with the men's national soccer team, who have yet to win a World Cup and failed to even qualify for the most recent cup in 2018.

"Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer, the USSF, the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts," according to their complaint. "This is true even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players -- with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions."

Biases Don't Lie

The players' lawsuit alleges that the gender discrimination isn't limited to financial compensation, and affects the women's team players' medical treatment, working conditions, and even the surface (artificial turf rather than natural grass) they play on during matches. The federation's "ongoing policies and practices of intentional gender discrimination extend beyond pay and into nearly every aspect of plaintiffs' and similarly situated WNT players' work conditions," according to the suit.

PBS looked at some of the pay disparities between men and women players in March, noting the men earn more than five times as much for making a World Cup roster ($76,000 versus $15,000), and would stand to earn 7.5 times the bonus pay for winning it, if they could ever manage that. Even the women's per diem pay is $15 less than the men's. And all this despite the women's national team operating at a $5.2 million profit, while the men are $1 million in the red. Admittedly, comparing the two is not apples and apples, but the apples-to-oranges comparison doesn't look good for the federation.

Building Women's Soccer

For its part, U.S. Soccer claims the men's and women's compensation structures aren't comparable, and each operates under a different collective bargaining agreement. "For 30 years, we have been a world leader in promoting the women's game and are proud of the long-standing commitment we have made to building women's soccer in the United States and furthering opportunities in soccer for young women and girls around the world." Even so, the federation possibly responded to the women's team's run to another championship by agreeing to mediate their discrimination claims rather than face a public legal battle in court.

No start date for the mediation has been announced yet, but it will likely have to wait until after the team's fourth victory parade in the past 30 years -- more than any team, women's or men's, over that span.

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