U.S. Soccer was misleading when it asserted some players for the women's national team made more money than their male counterparts, the women's team players said in court documents filed Monday.
The players say in the documents that the men's pay would have been far greater if they'd had the same success on the field as the women.
The filing was a response to a U.S. Soccer motion opposing the players' request to certify a lawsuit seeking equitable pay as a class-action. The women asked a court last month to include all players called up to the national team, which could increase the class to more than 50 players.
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Twenty-eight players, including stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, were part of the original suit filed against U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation between the men's and women's teams. A May 5 trial date has been set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The federation has maintained that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result. Men's team players are paid largely by appearance and performance, while the contract for the women's team includes provisions for health care and other benefits, as well as salaries in the National Women's Soccer League.
U.S. Soccer further argued last week that four players — Morgan, Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn — were each paid more than the highest-paid player on the men's national team in four years over the period between 2014 and 2019. The four earned more even when NWSL salaries weren't included, the motion said.
U.S. Soccer said because those players made more, they lack the standing to represent a class.
"The women chose to have a guaranteed salary of up to $172,500 per year, and in addition to this salary, they earn game and tournament bonuses, and receive a robust package of benefits. While the players on our men's national team can earn larger bonuses, they take more risk as they do not receive any guaranteed money or benefits within their pay-for-play contract structure," U.S Soccer said in a statement.
The women's filing Monday said the only reason those four players were able to earn more was "they worked in far more games, had far greater success and thus were able to earn more money in salary and bonuses even under the indisputably discriminatory set of the USSF's compensation policies." It said this didn't constitute equal pay.
The players' response maintains that the four players were paid less than one-third of what a male counterpart would have made if the men's team had been as successful over the same period.
"This is the very definition of gender discrimination, which is illegal. USSF has repeatedly tried to distort these figures — including by hiring lobbyists, creating PowerPoint presentations with false data, trying to blame FIFA, and purposely manipulating the equation. But the math is simple: when the rates from the men's CBA are applied to each woman player's record and performance, the results show an unmistakably large pay gap," said Molly Levinson, who represents the players in matters surrounding the lawsuit.
The women's team won this year's World Cup in France and had additional games leading up to the tournament, including qualification matches. The women also won the World Cup in 2015. The team played in victory tour matches following those World Cup titles.
The men's team, meanwhile, did not make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and had fewer matches and therefore fewer call-ups and training camps from 2017-18. The team has also transitioned to new coach Gregg Berhalter, who was hired last December.