Last week, the entire women’s national soccer team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for “institutionalized gender discrimination.” The 28 plaintiffs, who include veteran stars like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, allege that their employer the USSF has knowingly and deliberately paid the team less money than they deserve for their work and merits as a championship team; the women took home the FIFA Women’s World Cup title in 2015, beating Japan 5-2. Team USA also faced Japan in the 2011 World Cup, where they played a hard-fought match but lost the championship in a penalty shootout.
And yet, the suit alleges, the women have been paid as little as 38 percent of the money that the U.S. national men’s team has earned. (Recall that the men’s team failed to even make the 2018 World Cup.) The pay disparity at the exhibition level limits the women to earning $99,000 or less for playing 20 games, while players on the men’s team earn an average of $263,320. Beyond unequal compensation for equal work, the plaintiffs also accused the USSF of “deliberately manufacturing depression” of their revenue by failing to promote their matches equally. Their training and travel conditions also did not match that of the men’s team. Women’s practices had been relegated to soccer fields made of artificial turf until a couple years ago, and they only recently took their first chartered flight to a match.
The women’s soccer lawsuit seeks back pay, compensation for work lost, and damages that a sports law expert estimated would amount to tens of millions of dollars; if the team wins the case, the USSF will also be required to institute changes that prevent future discrimination. “I think to be on this team is to understand these issues,” Rapinoe told the New York Times. “And I think we’ve always — dating back to forever — been a team that stood up for itself and fought hard for what it felt it deserved and tried to leave the game in a better place.”
The U.S. women’s team has already received the support of the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association, a labor organization for current and past members of the U.S. Men’s National Team, who are “committed to the concept of a revenue-sharing model to address the U.S. Soccer Federation’s ‘market realities’ and find a way towards fair compensation,” per a statement released on Friday. “We wait on U.S. Soccer to respond to both players associations with a way to move forward with fair and equal compensation for all U.S. soccer players.” Adidas also announced that, moving forward, they will give both men’s and women’s teams an equal performance bonus should they win the World Cup. “We believe in believe in inspiring and enabling the next generation of female athletes, creators and leaders through breaking barriers,” a company head tweeted on Friday.
The team only has five more domestic matches scheduled before their June 11th match against Thailand in the World Cup.