US Soccer responds to USWNT equal pay lawsuit


President of the U.S. Soccer Federation Sunil Gulati has emphatically defended soccer’s governing body in the U.S. after a wage discrimination lawsuit was launched by five star players on the women’s national team.

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On Thursday Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn said they had acted on behalf of the entire team when they filed the action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) because they believe they deserve equal pay with the men’s national team players.

Here’s what Gulati had to say when speaking to reporters on a conference call later on Thursday.

“We are leaders in developing the game, and we’re going to continue to do that and take a leadership role on the women’s side of the game,” Gulati said. “We are committed to working with the players’ association to address some of the issues they’ve raised and getting an agreement done starting in January of 2017. I’m confident that will happen.”

He also added that U.S. Soccer holds the USWNT — the reigning World Cup and Olympic champs — in high regard and is willing to compensate them fairly when the time comes to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

“Do you think revenue should matter at all in determination of compensation in a market economy?” Gulati said. “If we look at the track record of the teams, a lot of things go into the compensation for the players. Part of it is based on revenue, part of it is revenue that accrued based on international competitions, part of it is based on incentives and the expected performance of the teams. All of that goes into it. Using the word ‘deserve,’ we think very highly of our women’s national team. We’re going to compensate them fairly, and we’ll sit down and work through that with them when all of this settles down.”

USSF outside counsel Russell Sauer also added that he was shocked to see the USWNT players and their renowned sports lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, mention that U.S. Soccer would not give them equal pay. Sauer said he attended all of the meetings between the players and U.S. Soccer in recent months and said: “I can tell you categorically, along with all the other U.S. Soccer participants, that statement, or anything along those lines, was never said ever.”

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The next big step in this process is awaiting the result of a court hearing in Chicago on May 25 which will decide when the current CBA deal runs out. U.S. Soccer claims it does so at the end of 2016, while the women’s national team say they signed a memorandum of understanding back in 2013 but believe the current CBA is no longer valid.

With the revenue levels of both the men’s and women’s teams being analyzed closely from U.S. Soccer’s resent financial reports, the women’s team believe they deserve equal pay. Their success during the 2015 World Cup and the celebration tour which followed it means that U.S. Soccer will make a profit of $17.7 million at the end of the 2016 fiscal year. In 2017 they are also scheduled to make a profit of around $5 million, while the USMNT is set to make a loss of $1 million but the U.S. men’s national team will have huge earning potential in 2018 if they make the World Cup in Russia.

Whatever way you slice up the numbers, it is clear that the USWNT deserves better than their current CBA and Gulati and U.S. Soccer accepts that in a roundabout way. However, whether or not the USWNT gets its wish of equal pay with the men’s national team remains to be seen and this storyline will rumble on for many months until we get some kind of conclusion.