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US Soccer, women’s players at odds over ‘equal pay’ offer

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NEW YORK — The U.S. Soccer Federation says it has offered the women’s national team equal pay to male counterparts for matches under USSF control but maintains the women want bonuses for tournaments such as the World Cup to match those of the men.

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The women disputed the USSF account, saying the federation proposed to match rates the men had under their labor deal that expired in December 2018 and the USSF offer was for only for a portion of the women under contract.

“Since extending this offer, we have made multiple attempts to meet with the WNT to discuss these new options,” USSF President Carlos Corderio wrote Saturday night in a letter to federation friends and supporters. “So far, they have repeatedly declined our invitation to meet on the premise that our proposal does not include U.S. Soccer agreeing to make up the difference in future prize money awarded by FIFA for the Men’s and Women’s World Cups.”

Players on the U.S. women’s national team are seeking more than $66 million in damages as part of their gender discrimination lawsuit against the USSF, which is scheduled for a trial starting May 5 at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Cordeiro’s letter was released a day before the American women play Spain in a pre-Olympic prep event called the SheBelieves Cup.

“The USSF letter is riddled with falsehoods and issued on the eve of the SheBelieves game, which demonstrates that it is more important to USSF to diminish the women’s team than it is to support them on the field,” players spokeswoman Molly Levinson said in a statement. “USSF did not and has never offered equal pay to the women players.”

FIFA awarded $400 million in prize money for the 2018 men’s World Cup, including $38 million to champion France, and $30 million for last year’s Women’s World Cup, including $4 million to the U.S. after the Americans won their second straight title. FIFA has increased the total to $440 million for the 2022 men’s World Cup and FIFA President Gianni Infantino has proposed FIFA double the women’s prize money to $60 million for 2023.

FIFA pays bonuses to national federations, which each makes its own deal with its players.

Cordeiro said the USSF also had responsibility to invest in youth national teams and other programs, such as player, coach and referee development.

“There is indeed a significant difference in World Cup prize money awarded by FIFA to the men’s and women’s championship teams,” Cordeiro wrote. “However, it is not reasonable or fiscally sound for U.S. Soccer to make up the gap. It would seriously impair our ability to support our mission and invest in these other critical developmental areas.”

The women have a labor contract covering 2017-21. The deal for the men expired at the end of 2018.

Levison criticized the USSF for asking that talks be confidential, then issuing a statement with its view of talks.

“There is no compromising on equal pay,” she said. “Equal is equal.”

The USSF repeatedly has pointed out women’s national team players have benefits the men do not, including guaranteed annual salaries, medical and dental insurance, child-care assistance, and pregnancy and parental leave.

USWNT seek over $66 million in damages from U.S. Soccer

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Players on the USWNT are seeking more than $66 million in damages as part their gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, part of a slew of court papers filed Thursday night ahead of a scheduled May trial.

Among the dozens of documents entered into the case record in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles were the separate collective bargaining agreements of the U.S. men’s and women’s teams. They showed a disparity in bonuses but also highlighted the different structures of the deals, including guaranteed salaries for the women and benefits the men do not receive from the federation.

The estimate of damages, including interest, was provided by Finnie Bevin Cook, an economist from Deiter Consulting Group, which was retained by the suing players.

As part of the preparation for a May 5 trial in the class-action suit, both sides revealed parts of pre-trial depositions.

USWNT star Megan Rapinoe, the reigning FIFA Player of the Year, said during a Jan. 16 deposition that Russell Sawyer, an outside lawyer for the USSF, stated during a bargaining session in June 2016 that “market realities are such that the women do not deserve to be paid equally to the men.”

USSF President Carlos Cordeiro was asked during a Jan. 29 deposition about a statement he made when campaigning that “our female players have not been treated equally.”

“I felt then and I still feel to a degree, that the lack of opportunity for our female players was really what was at the root of some of their issues,” Cordeiro said. “The fact that the Women’s World Cup generates a fraction of revenue and a fraction of what the men get paid is a reflection, frankly, of lack of opportunity. … Women’s soccer outside of the United States doesn’t have the same degree of respect.”

Former USSF President Sunil Gulati, speaking during a Dec. 17 deposition, was questioned about the different competition the women and men face.

“One of which is the level of the opponent; two is where is the game played; three is how many of those opponents you have to play against to get to a certain level; four, which is really a combination of two of those, is how many other teams in the world are playing at any level that could give you a competitive match,” Gulati said.

“LeBron James doesn’t get a bonus for getting 15 points and for the Lakers finishing out the playoffs,” he added. “The expectations for him are different based on who they’re playing against, what – who he is, what the level is.”

Gulati said he read depositions in that case that discussed the distinctions between men’s and women’s soccer.

“There is an absolute difference, which not everyone seemed to agree to, but do I think that it’s less attractive or less entertaining? I’m not saying that. Or relative quality, I’m not saying that,” he said. “But I’m also not saying, in terms of absolute level of — whether it’s speed or strength, they’re the same. I think most people would accept that, too.”

A USMNT player who was on the roster for all 16 qualifiers during the failed effort to reach the 2018 World Cup earned $179,375 in payments from the U.S. Soccer Federation.

A USWNT player received $52,500 for being on the roster for the five World Cup qualifiers last year plus $147,500 for her time at the World Cup, including a $37,500 roster bonus and $110,000 for winning the title in France.

The USSF keeps 16-21 women’s players under contract in each year of the current labor deal, which runs through 2021, and pays each a $100,000 salary. The federation also pays a minimum 22 players assigned to a club in the National Women’s Soccer League, with each receiving $72,500 to $77,500 this year.

Women receive 75% of salary on maternity leave for up to one year, and a player has the longer of three months or two training camps to return to full fitness. A player can receive 75% of salary for up to three months when adopting a child and a $50 daily stipend for child care during training and play. The USSF also pays for health, dental and vision insurance for the women.

When the men last qualified for the World Cup in 2014, their player pool got a $2 million payment, and each player earned $55,000 for making the roster and $5,500 per match. The player pool earned $175,000 per point for the group phase, a total of $700,000, plus $3.6 million for reaching the round of 16.

The USSF in its filing pointed out it received $9 million from FIFA for the men reaching the second round of the 2014 World Cup, but $2 million for the women winning in 2015 and $4 million for their victory in 2019.

There is parity is per diems: the women get $62.50 daily while in the U.S. and $75 internationally, the same as the men received under terms of their expired deal that covered 2015-18. And men and women both receive $1.50 per paid attendance for home matches controlled by the USSF.

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Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

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A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

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U.S. Soccer opposes USWNT request for class certification

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The U.S. Soccer Federation has filed a motion opposing the U.S. women’s national team request to certify the players’ lawsuit seeking equitable pay as a class action.

The women filed its motion for class certification on Sept. 11, asking the court to include all players called up to the national team in the lawsuit, in addition to those originally named. U.S. Soccer filed its response to the request on Monday night.

Twenty-eight players, including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, sued U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation compared to players on the men’s national team.

U.S. Soccer maintains 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.

The federation argued in its motion Monday that four players for the U.S. team – 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 2014-2019. The four earned more even when NWSL salaries were removed, the motion said.

U.S. Soccer maintains that because those players made more they lack the standing to represent a class.

Representatives for the players did not immediately respond to comment Monday night.

The motion says the four players made more in 2015, and then from 2017-2019 than the highest-paid men’s player in each of those years.

The men’s team 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.

The women’s team won this year’s World Cup in France and had additional games leading up to the event, including qualification matches. The women also won the World Cup in 2015. The team also played in victory tour matches following those World Cup victories.

The lawsuit accused the federation of paying players on the women’s team less than similarly situated male national team players on a per game basis.

Following a failed attempt to mediate the matter, a May 5 trial date was set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Promoter intends to drop sanctioning suit against USSF

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A promoter intends to drop its lawsuit that asked a court to order the U.S. Soccer Federation to sanction international league matches in the United States.

The USSF in April denied an application by Relevent Sports, a company owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida. The USSF cited an Oct. 26 announcement by FIFA that its ruling council “emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

Relevent sued in New York Supreme Court, and a lawyer for the USSF argued the court should not hear the dispute and it should be sent to arbitration. A decision by Justice W. Franc Perry was pending.

Marc Litt, a lawyer for Relevent, sent a letter to Perry on Monday stating “that our client has decided to discontinue this proceeding.”

Relevent also attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

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