USWNT players seeking over $66 million in damages from U.S. Soccer Federation in gender discrimination lawsuit

The United States women's national team's fight for equal pay took another twist as motions from each side of the wage discrimination dispute were filed on Thursday night. The USWNT and U.S. Soccer Federation are still clearly on opposing sides with differing views on what has transpired in regards to the pay.

On the USWNT side, the group asked Judge R. Gary Klausner of United States District Court for the Central District of California for a pretrial decision ruling in their favor, in hopes to forego a trial and seek backpay totaling nearly $67 million, and possibly millions more. 

U.S. Soccer is asking the judge on this case for something very different. Their motion asked for the case to be dismissed.

The women's team is arguing that "gender stereotyping" can be proven without a trial, while the USSF is basing their defense on the women's team negotiating a vastly different contract than the men, according to Yahoo Sports. If the judge decides not to choose a side here and the USWNT and USSF fail to come to a conclusion on their own, the fight will head to trial.  

The USWNT has been building an argument for equal pay since 2016, with major players like Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd being voices for the movement. The women's legal team has determined they are owed $67 million, a number they arrived at by applying the United States men's national team collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to the success of the USWNT.  U.S. Soccer would take a major financial hit if they ended up having paying that total. It could cause a hit to the group's finances that would impact the men and women's teams, as well as youth development, coaching, referee education and grass-roots soccer programs.

Breaking down what is earned on the field, the men can receive up to $17,625 for a win, while the women can only earn up to $8,500, according to Yahoo. U.S. Soccer is expected to dispute any dollar amount that comes from FIFA bonuses, as they are not in control of that money. FIFA hands a smaller amount out for a Women's World Cup win than the men's World Cup. The USMNT can earn $25 million with a World Cup win, where the USWNT can only earn $2.5 million as a team. 

Outside of any FIFA contribution is money the USSF has decided to give as bonuses to the men in the World Cup. For every point earned during the World Cup group stage, they give the USMNT $218,750, which is independent of any FIFA money the USSF receives to hand out to the men. 

In their argument, USWNT is saying that USSF representatives agreed that the women have been discriminated against due to gender. The women's lawyers said the discrimination from USSF was "based not on actual facts that USSF relied upon when making compensation decisions, but on gender stereotyping – such as the assertion by former USSF President Sunil Gulati that male soccer players have more 'speed' and 'strength.'"

The lawyers also noted a quote from former U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.

"... Do I think that it's less attractive or less entertaining? I'm not saying that. Or relative quality, I'm not saying that. But I'm also not saying, in terms of absolute level of -- whether it's speed or strength, they're the same. I think most people would accept that too."

They also took a look at current president Carlos Cordeiro who said his platformed aimed at, "Equal resources for our women's program from the coaching staff to the training facilities to the travel accommodations. We don't need to wait for CBA negotiations to make these changes. We can start now. It's the right thing to do."

U.S Soccer argues the contracts the women have been under are what they agreed on, pushing for more guarantees and health care in their negotiations than their male counterparts. 

"Their preference was a contract that provides significant additional benefits that the men's national team does not have, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, paid child-care assistance, paid pregnancy and parental leave, severance benefits, salary continuation during periods of injury, access to a retirement plan, multiple bonuses and more." USSF spokesman Neil Buethe said.

The women say they were mislead in their CBA negotiations, claiming an attorney from U.S. Soccer informed them "market realities" needed to come into play and would mean they were not able to be paid equally to the men. They say their pushback of this claim only made the federation take a stronger stance that the women would not be able to take home the same level of bonuses. 

"At the moment, the women's national team players are paid differently because they specifically asked for, and negotiated, a completely different contract than the men's national team, despite being offered, and rejecting, a similar pay-to-play agreement during the past negotiations," Buethe said. 

A spokesperson for the USWNT Molly Levinson defended their CBA, saying they did not reject an equal contract because they were not offered one, according to Yahoo. Here's what she said:

"In the most recent CBA negotiation, USSF repeatedly said that equal pay was not an option regardless of pay structure. USSF proposed a 'pay to play structure' with less pay across the board. In every instance for a friendly or competitive match, the women players were offered less pay than their male counterparts. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, and of course the players rejected it. As the players included in their summary judgment brief, the USSF official who took notes of the bargaining sessions admitted under oath at his deposition that the USSF never offered the WNT equal pay in bonuses for friendlies, in compensation for the World Cup or in compensation for other tournaments."

U.S. Soccer is maintaining their argument that the women were actually paid more than the men in the period of time in question, though this breakdown is not as cut and dry as they are hoping to present it as. In order for the women to earn this competitive salary they must play, and win, more games, backing their argument that it is not fair pay. 

That $37 million total the USSF is saying the women made, against the $21 million the men made, includes the pay from the National Women's Soccer league, which the women say should be categorized as a separate job. 

Taking out the NWSL numbers, USSF says the women were still paid $6 million more, but are ignoring the success rate and number of games played. With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics coming up, the women are preparing for competition, and both sides asked for the trial to take place after the games. The judge however has set a May date for the sides to show up in court. 

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