Five members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) filed a federal complaint today against the U.S. Soccer Federation for wage discrimination.

The five players—Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo—filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of their entire team. They charge that even with the women’s team success, including being the reigning World Cup and Olympic champions, they have been paid almost four times less than the men’s team. According to the filings, despite bringing in nearly $20 million more in revenue than their male counterparts, the women are paid nearly four times less.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

That the team is successful cannot be disputed. Even Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation President noted that after the team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup that “no international team in the world was as dominant as our Women’s National Team.”  During the final game, according to Gulati himself, “more than 25 million people tuned in for the epic contest, making the final the most watched soccer game – men’s or women’s – in U.S. television history.”

Yet, according to data provided by the U.S. Soccer Federation, the teams’ collective bargaining agreements differ drastically. In friendly matches, men are paid between $5,000 and $17,625—even if they lose the match. Women are paid $1,350—and only if they win. The disparity only becomes greater for World Cup qualifying games and the tournament itself.

“These athletes have probably the strongest case for pay discrimination against women that I have ever seen,” said Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer representing the women in the EEOC case. “Because you have a situation where not only are their work requirements identical to the men’s requirements—the same number of minimum friendlies they have to play, the same requirements to prepare for their World Cups—but they have outperformed the men both economically and on the playing field in every possible way the last two years. So this isn’t a case where someone can come in and say the reason the men are paid more is because they are more economically successful or the men outperform the women or they’re not comparable in the same way.”

The EEOC complaint is the latest escalation between the players and the Federation. The Women’s National Team Players Association—the union representing the women’s team—is currently involved in a legal dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation regarding the applicability of a collective bargaining agreement.  According to Kessler, if the Federation wins the suit, it would “keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment [the players] have endured for years.”

For Alex Morgan, the discrimination is not limited just to compensation. “We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. Men’s National Team,” she said. “We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations, and we simply want equal treatment.”

Although the EEOC will not address the larger issues at play in the collective bargaining lawsuit, it will now carry out an investigation to determine whether or not the U.S. Soccer Federation’s actions warrant compensation for the women players.

Media Resources: Winston & Strawn LLP Press Release 3/31/16; SI.com 3/31/16; New York Times 2/3/16; U.S. Soccer 2016 AGM February 2016

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