The U.S. Women’s soccer team has tentatively agreed to enter mediation with the U.S. Soccer Federation to resolve a lawsuit filed by the team alleging pay discrimination.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the 28 members of the current roster who are suing tentatively agreed to mediation once the World Cup ends. They players filed their lawsuit on March 8, and their attorneys asked for mediation once the World Cup began.
On Monday, U.S. Soccer agreed to mediation via a letter, the Journal reported. A spokesman for the federation told the outlet that it welcomed mediation but wished the news had waited until after the World Cup.
“We look forward to everyone returning their focus to the efforts on the field as we aim to win another title,” the spokesman said.
Five members of the U.S. women’s team had filed a complaint in March 2016 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging they were unfairly paid less than men. Three years later, more players joined in on a lawsuit against the federation making the same allegations, which include claims that U.S. soccer “denies them equal playing, training and travel conditions and promotes their games less compared with the men’s soccer team,” according to the Journal.
The federation maintains that pay discrepancies are the result of different collective-bargaining agreements between the men and women’s teams and are “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”
The U.S. Soccer spokesman also told the Journal that the men’s and women’s teams negotiated for the different pay structures, “but that doesn’t mean they are compensated less by U.S. Soccer.”
He added: “We will readily admit that FIFA pays more prize money out to the Men’s World Cup than the Women’s World Cup, and we support FIFA increasing prize money for the Women’s World Cup, even beyond the fact the prize money was doubled for 2019.”
And that is the issue. U.S. Soccer and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) provide different payouts to players and teams. The women’s team brings in only a fraction of the revenue for FIFA of the men’s team, even though the women win more. Their base pay from U.S. Soccer is something they negotiated, so arguing it is discriminatory is a bit of a stretch.
Last week, the Journal reported that the women’s team brings in slightly more revenue for U.S. Soccer than the men’s team — $50.8 million for the women between 2016 and 2018, compared to $49.9 million for the men. This wasn’t always the case; the gap has disappeared in recent years. The last collective bargaining agreement was reached in April 2017 and runs through 2021, according to NBC News. That agreement increased pay and provided better benefits. The women should be in an excellent negotiating position for their next collective-bargaining agreement in two years — but they refuse to wait.
One can see why; they’d be losing out on millions, and some of the current players may no longer be on the team in two years. Still, that was what they agreed to and soon it will be up to a mediator to sort things out.