If there's one thing women's soccer fans have come to expect in the last 16 years of play, it's to never assume the USWNT can't earn a victory.
With two World Cup titles, Olympic gold medals and an explosion of interest in women's soccer in the United States, five members of the USWNT will now play for a much more important victory: equal treatment and pay.
Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, all stars in their own right, today filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the governing body of soccer in the United States, U.S. Soccer, discriminates against women.
The players allege that U.S. Soccer, despite the women allegedly generating $20million more in revenues for U.S. Soccer than the USMNT did, pays the men, on average, four times more than the women.
Attorney Jeffrey Kessler is representing the five players in their complaint and he told reporters today that the situation has reached this point because the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) has refused to negotiate.
“The reason the players have filed is because the USSF has made it clear that they will not consider equal pay in the negotiations for a new agreement,” said Kessler. “So whether or not there’s an existing agreement, they won’t ever agree to make a change to give us the right salary. And the players have been very patient and have concluded now they have to bring a case.”
The women cite the fact that the men are guaranteed at least $5,000 per player per friendly, win or lose, while the women earn $1,350 per player per friendly if they win the match. The USMNT players also make between $9,375 and $17,625 for wins in friendlies, depending on the rank of the team they beat, while the women have no sliding for wins, instead receiving $1,350 per player regardless of result.
Men receive nearly $70,000 each for making the World Cup roster while the women receive $15,000. The members of the USMNT also receive varying WC qualifying match bonuses while the women do not. Per diems, sponsor appearance fees and ticket revenue bonuses are also higher across the board for the men.
Morgan, while agreeing equal pay for equal work was at the heart of the matter, also noted that the women are fighting for equality in terms of playing conditions (natural grass vs. artificial turf) as well as equal travel accommodations.
U.S. Soccer responded to the complaint with the following statement earlier today:
"We understand the Women’s National Team Players Association is filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against U.S. Soccer. While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we are 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."
None of what U.S. Soccer said in their release is untrue. But none of what they said speaks to the unequal pay or conditions either.
With the stark differences noted above, and with the USWNT having perhaps more leverage than at any other point in the sport's history, it would be unwise to bet against the ladies leveling the playing field to a large extent when all is said and done.