Five members of the world champion U.S. women's national soccer team accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of pay discrimination in a federal complaint unveiled on Thursday.
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The complaint alleges that the players earn a fraction of their male counterparts for national team appearances--sometimes as little as 38%--despite their superior on-field achievements and equal number of matches. The players bringing the complaint, which they say comes on behalf of the whole team, are all veteran stars: captain Carli Lloyd, goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and striker Alex Morgan.
"We feel like it was the right thing to do. We're fighting the good fight," Ms. Sauerbrunn said. "U.S. Soccer has no justification for paying us as little as they do."
U.S. Soccer, the game's national governing body, said in a statement that it was "disappointed about this action.
"We have been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years," it added before seeing the details of the complaint.
The players filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission amid a legal dispute between their union and the federation over the validity of their collective bargaining agreement, which expires later this year. Those talks haven't not productive, according to the players' attorney Jeffrey Kessler: when their demand for equal pay came up then, Mr. Kessler said, the federation called it "an irrational request."
The women's national team is a three-time World Cup winner and defending Olympic champion. Its victory in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan last summer was the most-watched soccer game of all time in the U.S. with over 22 million viewers, according to Fox. The men's team has never progressed past the World Cup quarterfinals since finishing third at the inaugural tournament in 1930.
Under their current agreements with U.S. Soccer, for instance, the women's team can earn $75,000 bonuses per player for winning the World Cup. If the men's team won the equivalent tournament, each squad member would pick up nearly $400,000. The prize money allocated in each tournament by FIFA, soccer's world governing body, is similarly disparate.
"If the USSF comes back and says they're going to treat the women equally, that would be a great first step," Mr. Kessler said on Thursday. "The reality is that the women's team has been more valuable to the USSF than the men's team has been."
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