US women's team sues US Soccer over 'institutionalized gender discrimination'

All 28 current members of the United States women’s soccer team have filed a lawsuit against their own governing body alleging years of “institutionalized gender discrimination”. The team, who are the reigning world champions, are seeking equal pay with their male counterparts, who failed to reach the 2018 World Cup.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on Friday, seeks equal pay and treatment, in addition to damages including back pay. The group, which includes some of the best players in the world such as Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, are also seeking compensation for any player who has appeared for the US since February 2015. If the lawsuit is successful it could cost the US Soccer Federation millions of dollars.

“Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that. We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender,” Morgan said in a statement.

US Soccer has yet to respond to the lawsuit, which was filed on International Women’s Day.

This is not the first time the team, who are due to defend their World Cup title in France this summer, have been in dispute with US Soccer. In 2016, five high-profile players – Lloyd, Morgan, Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo – filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination. The two sides eventually agreed a settlement in 2017. Terms of the deal were not released but were believed to include increases in pay, better per diem allowances, enhanced travel benefits and increased financial support for players who are pregnant – but were not thought to guarantee equal pay with their male counterparts.

US Soccer has maintained that the disparity between the women’s and men’s teams is due to separate labor agreements. For example, male players get more money when they play for the national team but are only paid when selected, whereas female players receive less money but their wages are guaranteed. US Soccer also points out that bonuses from World Cups are set by Fifa rather than national federations.

But it is undeniable that the US women’s team – who have won three World Cups and four Olympic titles – have often been treated shabbily. According to US Soccer’s own financial disclosures, the women’s team brought in more revenue than their male counterparts over the last three years, and their victory in the 2015 World Cup final was the most-watched soccer match in US history. Despite those facts, the US women’s coach, Jill Ellis, was paid less than the men’s Under-23 coach until last year. In the 2016 wage discrimination case it was revealed that male players were given per diems of $75 when traveling abroad while female players only got $60. Lloyd joked at the time: “Maybe they figure that women are smaller and thus eat less.”


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