Equal-pay lawsuit filed by US women’s soccer team set for May trial

Twenty-eight members of the U.S. women's soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The trial has been scheduled to start May 5, 2020. Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — A gender discrimination lawsuit filed by members of the U.S. women’s soccer team against the U.S. Soccer Federation has been scheduled for trial starting May 5, a spokeswoman for the players said.

“We are pleased with the expeditious schedule that has been set by the court and we are eager to move forward (with) this case,” Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players, said Tuesday. “We very much look forward to the trial in May 2020 when the players will have their day in court.

“We have every confidence that these world champion athletes will get what they legally deserve — nothing less than equal pay and working conditions.”

U.S. Soccer declined to comment.

The U.S. Women’s National Team’s lawsuit was filed in March in the U.S. District Court in California, with 28 members of the team listed as plaintiffs. The suit alleges U.S. Soccer’s payment practices amount to federal discrimination by paying women less than men “for substantially equal work and by denying them at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment equal to the MNT.”

Mediation talks between U.S. Soccer and the U.S. women’s soccer team broke down, Levinson said last week.

The players had previously requested a November 2020 trial date, while U.S. Soccer asked that the trial begin in December 2020.

In one hypothetical case cited in the lawsuit, if the women’s and men’s teams both won 20 straight games in a season, the women would make 38% what the men do.

Last month, U.S. Soccer said the reigning Women’s World Cup champions earned more than the U.S. Men’s National Team, with U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro releasing an open letter on Twitter saying that from 2010 through 2018, the federation paid $34.1 million in salary and game bonuses to the women, compared with $26.4 million for the men.

Those figures did not include benefits, such as health care, that the women receive. Included in the federation’s numbers is that U.S. Soccer pays USWNT contracted players a salary to play in the National Women’s Soccer League, while the men are paid by their individual teams.

The women’s and men’s compensation structures are different, as those each were collectively bargained.

The figures were described as misleading and “utterly false” by Levinson in a July written statement.

America’s women have been far more successful than their male counterparts, winning four World Cups — the most recent last month in France — and four Olympic gold medals.

The USMNT said its players, too, “were not impressed” by Cordeiro’s letter. “The women’s national team players deserve equal pay and are right to pursue a legal remedy from the courts or Congress,” the men’s team said.

Sponsors have added to the pressure to resolve the equal pay fight, with deodorant brand Secret saying in July that it planned to contribute $529,000 to the USWNT players’ association.

Nike, U.S. Soccer’s biggest partner, has also said it’s a strong advocate for pay equity. “Regarding gender equality, Nike has been an advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world,” a spokesperson said. Minutes after the USWNT’s World Cup win on July 7, Nike ran a 60-second ad celebrating the team’s victory, centering on the concept that the USWNT’s win is about more than winning a soccer title. However, Nike has been criticized for reducing athletes’ pay during their pregnancies, a practice it said in May it would discontinue.

It emerged this month that U.S. Soccer had enlisted two lobbying firms, FBB Federal Relations and Vann Ness Feldman, to push back against claims of pay disparity after two Democratic senators introduced legislation that would require equal pay for men’s and women’s national teams.

The move had left the team “stunned and disappointed,” Levinson told CNN.

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