“Institutionalized gender discrimination.”
The lawsuit, brought by all 28 members of the women’s team, accuses U.S. soccer of years of “institutionalized gender discrimination.” At issue is not only pay, but also the locations of games and the quality of medical treatment the women receive.
The players complain that although they both play and win more games than the men’s team, they are paid less by the federation, which is both their employer and the sport’s national governing body.
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However, this argument is complicated by the difficulty in making an “apples to apples” comparison with the payment structure of the men’s team. The women’s and men’s teams have separate collective bargaining agreements with U.S. Soccer.
While the men receive higher bonuses when they play for the national team, the women have guaranteed salaries that their counterparts do not.
Additional multimillion-dollar bonuses for World Cup participation are paid out by FIFA — the international governing body of soccer — not the U.S. federation. A pool of over $400 million is available for the 32-team men’s tournament, compared to only $30 million for the 24-team women’s event.
The bonuses are based on the revenue each tournament pulls in. While the 2015 Women’s World Cup generated close to $73 million, the 2018 men’s tournament generated an estimated $6.1 billion in revenue. Male players actually received a smaller percentage of the revenue, 9 percent, compared to the 13 percent paid out to female players for their tournament.
U.S. soccer has in the past showed a willingness to accommodate the players. The federation negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement with the women’s team in 2017, increasing their compensation, improving their working conditions, and allowing the athletes to pursue endorsement opportunities through their union.
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Nevertheless, the players insist U.S. soccer could do more to close the gap between themselves and the men.
“This lawsuit is an effort by the plaintiffs to address those serious issues through the exercise of their individual rights. For its part, the USWNTPA will continue to seek improvements in pay and working conditions through the labor-management and collective bargaining processes,” the players’ union said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes just months before the team is set to defend their Women’s World Cup title in France this summer.
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