American women players settle suit vs. U.S. Soccer for $24M

U.S. women soccer players reached a landmark agreement with the sport’s American governing body to end a six-year legal battle over equal pay, a deal in which they are promised $24 million plus bonuses that match those of the men.


What You Need To Know

  • U.S. women soccer players have reached a landmark agreement with the sport’s American governing body to end a six-year legal battle over equal pay
  • The deal promises them $24 million plus bonuses that match those of the men
  • The U.S. Soccer Federation and the women have announced a deal in which the players will split $22 million, about one-third of what they had sought in damages
  • The USSF also agrees to establish a fund with $2 million to benefit the players in their post-soccer careers and charitable efforts aimed at growing the sport for women

The U.S. Soccer Federation and the women announced a deal Tuesday that will have players split $22 million, about one-third of what they had sought in damages. The USSF also agreed to establish a fund with $2 million to benefit the players in their post-soccer careers and charitable efforts aimed at growing the sport for women.

The USSF committed to providing an equal rate of pay for the women’s and men’s national teams — including World Cup bonuses — subject to collective bargaining agreements with the unions that separately represent the women and men.

“It’s a really amazing day,” star forward Megan Rapinoe told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “I think we’re going to look back on this day and say this is the moment that U.S. soccer changed for the better. Obviously, we can’t go back and undo the injustices that we’ve faced, but the only justice coming out of this is that we know that something like this is never going to happen again.”

The settlement was a victory for the players, who sparked fans to chant “Equal Pay!” when they won their second straight title in France in 2019. And it was a success for USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former player who became head of the federation in March 2020. 

Cone replaced Carlos Cordeiro, who quit after the federation made a legal filing that claimed women had less physical ability and responsibility than male counterparts.

“This is just one step towards rebuilding the relationship with the women’s team. I think this is a great accomplishment and I’m excited about the future and working together with them,” Cone said. “Now we can shift the focus to other things, most importantly, growing the game at all levels and increasing opportunities for girls and women.”

U.S. women have won four World Cups since the program’s start in 1985, while the men haven’t reached a semifinal since 1930.

Five American stars led by Alex Morgan and Rapinoe began the challenge with a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2016. Women sued three years later, seeking damages under the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The sides settled the working conditions portion in December 2020, dealing with issues such as charter flights, accommodations and playing surfaces. They were scheduled to argue on March 7 before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to reinstate the equal pay portion thrown out by a U.S. District Court. 

“The settlement announced today is an important step in righting the many wrongs of the past,” the union for the women’s team said in a statement.

While a labor contract remains to be reached and ratified to replace the deal that expires March 31, the settlement was an enormous step.

“This is just such a monumental step forward in feeling valued, feeling respected, and just mending a relationship with U.S. Soccer that’s really been full of tension and very far apart from each other for many years, for about six years now,” Morgan told “GMA” of the settlement.

“I not only see this as a win for our team or women’s sports, but women in general,” she added.

The $22 million will be split into individual amounts proposed by the players, subject to the District Court’s approval.

Cone said the federation’s method of equalizing World Cup bonuses is yet to be determined. The federation has until now based bonuses on payments from FIFA, which earmarked $400 million for the 2018 men’s tournament, including $38 million to champion France, and  $30 million for the 2019 women’s tournament, including $4 million to the champion U.S.

American men have been playing under the terms of a CBA that expired in December 2018.

Rapinoe was critical of both Cordeiro and his predecessor, Sunil Gulati, who headed the USSF from 2006-18. Cordeiro is seeking to regain the job from Cone when the USSF National Council meets on March 5 to vote on a four-year term.

“The thing that Cindy did was acknowledge the wrongdoing and apologize for the wrongdoing,” Rapinoe told The Associated Press. “It was well within Sunil’s ability to not discriminate and to pay us fairly and equally. It was well within Carlos’ ability to do that, and they made choices not to. … I think Cindy has shown a lot of strength in that, and I think the other two, frankly, just showed a ton of weakness and showed really their true colors in allowing this to happen for so long.”

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