Five members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team have filed a wage discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, according to ESPN. The lawsuit, filed on Thursday by prominent soccer stars Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Hope Solo, alleges that the U.S. Soccer Federation pays U.S. male soccer players nearly 75 percent more than its female team members.
While the United States men’s soccer team has made headlines recently for its struggle to succeed, the women’s soccer team has been experiencing a wave of popularity for its many successes. The women’s soccer team won last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and is currently preparing to represent the United States in the Olympics this summer. According to Yahoo Sports, the men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the Olympics and is struggling to keep a berth in the next World Cup.
According to United States Soccer Federation financial information, the women’s soccer team generated $20 million more than the men’s team in 2015. As a result, the women’s team felt it was time to take a stand.
Alex Morgan, who joined the women’s soccer team in 2010, took to her Facebook to explain the reason for the lawsuit, stating that it wasn’t simply about the United States Soccer Federation’s unwillingness to provide raises to the team but also about player safety:
“This is not only about equal pay – we get paid less than half of our male counterparts – but also equal treatment. We deserve to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. Men’s National Team, not dangerous turf fields. We want to have decent travel accommodations. We have dedicated our lives to this sport and our country and we love soccer and our fans.”
Many members of international women’s soccer teams had filed a lawsuit against FIFA prior to the Women’s World Cup due to the use of turf fields instead of grass. Though the lawsuit was eventually dropped by the soccer players according to ESPN, the issue was brought to the forefront with the hope that conditions would improve for future women’s soccer contenders. The change didn’t happen soon enough, however.
Late last year, U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL while practicing on a turf field, and player complaints about field conditions resulted in friendly match cancellations. Rapinoe and captain Becky Sauerbrunn are also included in the lawsuit.
In February, the U.S. Soccer Federation filed a lawsuit against the players of the women’s national team as the players’ union attempted to work out a new collective bargaining agreement. Thursday’s lawsuit by the women’s team players was their response, indicating that the Soccer Federation may end up with a strike on their hands right before the Olympics if some sort of agreement cannot be reached.
The U.S. women’s soccer team has already undergone some significant changes to its roster since the World Cup. Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, and Lauren Holiday retired. Megan Rapinoe may not be back on the field due to her ACL recovery. And soccer players Sydney LeRoux and Amy Rodriguez are out due to pregnancy. Now if the women’s team were to lose Morgan and Lloyd, two of their top scorers, and Hope Solo, the winner of World Cup Golden Glove, the U.S. soccer team might have quite a struggle on their hands to bring home the gold from Brazil.
Still, the women’s soccer players are getting vocal support from two very unlikely sources. Former men’s soccer team player Landon Donovan took to Twitter to cheer for his counterparts:
#USWNT absolutely deserve to be treated fairly in all ways. Important to remember that these issues are/can be collectively bargained
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) March 31, 2016
And men’s soccer team goalkeeper Tim Howard agreed, “We support the fact that the women should fight for their rights and fight for what they think is just compensation. We, on the men’s side, have been fighting that battle for a long, long time.”
The men’s team had long ago complained about the lack of pay, and eventually the U.S. Soccer Federation caved and negotiated better terms. Now that the women’s soccer team has passed the ball, it’s up to the Federation to decide how to play it.
[Cover image courtesy of Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.]