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USWNT to receive US$24m in US Soccer equal pay settlement

Federation also commits to paying women’s and men’s teams equally moving forward.

22 February 2022 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Agreement ends dispute dating back to 2016
  • Players to receive US$22m in compensation with further US$2m going towards post-playing careers
  • Settlement remains contingent on negotiation of new CBA

The 28 US women’s national team (USWNT) players who filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer have reached a settlement with their national governing body, ending a long-running dispute over equal pay and working conditions that dates back to 2016.

Under the terms of the agreement, detailed in a court filing on 22nd February, the players will receive US$22 million in direct compensation from US Soccer, which will put an additional US$2 million towards the players’ post-career goals and charitable endeavours related to the women’s game.

Moving forward, US Soccer has also reportedly committed to paying the men’s and women’s national teams equally for all friendlies and tournaments, including the Fifa World Cup.

‘Getting to this day has not been easy,’ the USWNT and the federation said in a joint statement. ‘The US women’s national team players have achieved unprecedented success while working to achieve equal pay for themselves and future athletes.

‘Today, we recognise the legacy of the past USWNT leaders who helped make this day possible, as well as all of the women and girls who will follow. Together, we dedicated this moment to them.’

The settlement remains contingent on the negotiation of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the USWNT and US Soccer, which would resolve all outstanding claims in the lawsuit. In December, the pair agreed to extend the existing CBA until the end of March to allow more time to work out a deal.

The dispute has been a long and ultimately costly one for US Soccer, which was first placed under the spotlight in 2016, when five USWNT stars, including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, filed a wage discrimination complaint to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Three years later, just months ahead of their triumph at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against the federation, accusing US Soccer of ‘institutionalised gender discrimination’.

The ensuing court battle led to the resignation of Carlos Cordeiro, who stepped down as US Soccer president in March 2020 just days after the governing body said in a filing that playing for the US men’s national team carries ‘more responsibility’ and requires ‘a higher level of skill’.

The women’s players were then dealt a major blow when a court dismissed their equal pay claims, a decision which they subsequently appealed. By the end of 2020, a settlement had been reached with US Soccer over unequal working conditions, but not equal pay.

The figure agreed under the final settlement still represents around a third of the US$66 million the players were seeking in the 2019 lawsuit, but Rapinoe told The Athletic that it feels like “a huge win”.

“It’s honestly kind of surreal,” she added. “I feel like I need to take a step back. We’ve all been in the trenches of it for so long. I think I honestly don’t even understand how monumental this is.”

Rapinoe also said she was “thankful” for US Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone, who is set to be challenged for reelection by her predecessor Cordeiro.

“This is just one step towards rebuilding the relationship with the women’s team,” Cone said. “I think this is a great accomplishment and I’m excited about the future and working together with them. Now we can shift the focus to other things, most importantly, growing the game at all levels and increasing opportunities for girls and women.”

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