For six years, high-profile players on the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) fought for equal pay against their national governing body. The fight ended Tuesday morning after it was announced a settlement was made that included a multi-million-dollar payment to the players, along with a promise by The Federation to provide equal pay between the men’s and women’s national teams.
The group of several dozen current and former USWNT players will share $24 million in payments from the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), the majority of which is back pay. U.S. Soccer will pay $22 million to the players in the case, which will be distributed based on a proposal from the players and approved by the district court. An additional $2 million will be put into an account to benefit the players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls’ soccer. Each player can apply for up to $50,000 from the fund.
The Federation committed to providing equal pay for the men’s and women’s national teams in all friendlies and tournaments, including World Cup bonuses.
The settlement is contingent upon a new collective bargaining agreement and comes despite a federal judge dismissing the players’ equal pay arguments and destroying most of their legal leverage. The players involved previously sought $66.7 million in back pay, but the announcement Tuesday morning marks a landmark win for those who fought long and hard for equal pay.
A lawsuit first filed in March 2019 by 28 national team players accused the USSF of “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The suit was filed under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and focused on equal pay and working conditions.
In March 2020, a legal filing by The Federation was made public and belittled players on the USWNT by saying they “do not perform equal work requiring equal skill [and] effort” because “the overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men’s national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes such as speed and strength.”
But the USWNT has a storied legacy as the No. 1 team in the world with four Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012) and four World Cup wins (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019).
The publicity and backlash led to the resignation of then-USSF president Carlos Cordeiro, who was replaced by Cindy Cone.
“Proud of this historic moment and excited to move forward together with our players to grow soccer and advance opportunities for women and girls around the world,” Cone wrote in a tweet.
The settlement is a big win for those who fought years to provide equal pay to the next-generation of women’s soccer stars.
(Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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