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US Soccer embroiled in new spat with USWNT over equal pay

The US women's national team (Credit: Getty Images)

The equal pay dispute between the United States Soccer Federation and members of the US women’s national team appears to be heading for a trial following another war of words over the weekend.

In March 2019, the USWNT filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer in the search for better pay and working conditions, but talks between the two parties ended without resolution in August.

Last month, the USWNT filed a motion seeking more than $66m in financial damages and back pay. The federation, for its part, responded with its own motion to have the lawsuit dismissed entirely. A trial is set for May 5.

Attempts to reach a resolution remain ongoing, but the two sides appear as far apart as ever in their positions on the issue.

US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro published an open letter on March 8, saying the federation had offered the USWNT “identical compensation” to men’s players for matches under its control.

He added that the USWNT had refused to even discuss the equal pay lawsuit unless the federation pledged to “make up the difference in future prize money awarded by Fifa for the men’s and women’s World Cups, a number that would be more than $34m today.”

Cordeiro reiterated that world governing body Fifa, not US Soccer, is responsible for World Cup prize money, and that it would be fiscally imprudent to make up the gap, considering all its other obligations.

“As a non-profit, member-based organization, US Soccer has obligations to all of our members – including 22 national teams, 113 members across the country and millions of players, coaches and referees at all levels – and we have a responsibility to help all of our members grow,” Cordeiro wrote. “There is indeed a significant difference in World Cup prize money awarded by Fifa to the men’s and women’s championship teams. However, it is not reasonable or fiscally sound for US Soccer to make up the gap. It would seriously impair our ability to support our mission and invest in these other critical developmental areas.”

A spokesperson for the players contested claims in Cordeiro’s letter, as well as the timing, which came a day before the USWNT defeated Spain 1-0 in a SheBelieves Cup match at Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, New Jersey. The match also fell on International Women’s Day.

“The USSF letter is riddled with falsehoods and issued on the eve of the SheBelieves game, which demonstrates that it is more important to USSF to diminish the women’s team than it is to support them on the field,” Molly Levinson said in a statement. “USSF did not and has never offered equal pay to the women players.”

“There is no compromising on equal pay,” she added. “Equal is equal.”

Asked what it would take to avoid a trial now, USWNT star player Megan Rapinoe told reporters at Red Bull Arena: “An actual offer for equal pay, and some considerable damages as well. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that right now.”