US Soccer and the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) have reached an agreement to end a dispute over equal pay, according to a joint statement released on Tuesday.
The dispute dates back to March 2019 when the USWNT filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer.
The agreement will see the women’s and men’s national teams receive an equal rate of pay in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup.
Tuesday’s joint statement said, “We are pleased to announce that, contingent on the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement, we will have resolved our longstanding dispute over equal pay and proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer.”
As part of the agreement, US Soccer will pay $22 million to the players in the case as well as an “additional $2 million into an account to benefit the USWNT players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls’ soccer.”
The settlement is contingent on the ratification of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the USWNT.
“Getting to this day has not been easy,” the statement said. “The U.S. Women’s National Team players have achieved unprecedented success while working to achieve equal pay for themselves and future athletes.
“Today, we recognize the legacy of the past USWNT leaders who helped to make this day possible, as well as all of the women and girls who will follow. Together, we dedicate this moment to them.
“We look forward to continuing to work together to grow women’s soccer and advance opportunities for young girls and women in the United States and across the globe.”
‘Justice’ and turning the page
Two-time World Cup winners Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan – along with US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone – reflected on the landmark agreement on CBS Mornings.
“It’s a little bit surreal to be honest,” Rapinoe said. “We’ve been in this for a long time and coming from a long history of women that have fought to put this sport in a better place.
“The thing I look forward to and I’m really proud of is that justice comes in the next generation never having to go through what we went through – it’s equal pay across the board from here on out.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the sport and to have this be a moment we look back on that signals a new US Soccer we can all be extremely proud of.”
Rapinoe said that the long-term effects of the agreement could lead to even greater success for the national team.
“The biggest piece of the legacy that us of this generation can take is that the players coming up next will have a much better ability to just play,” Rapinoe said.
“With that comes them probably being better than we ever were, that’s the goal.”
Morgan added that a big aspect of the settlement was moving towards “mending” the team’s relationship with US Soccer.
“This is a huge step, and mending that relationship with US Soccer is also a big piece of that,” Morgan said.
“We feel very comfortable and happy and proud with the moment that we’ve got to right now because it is a huge win for us, for women’s sport, for women in general – and it’s a moment we can all celebrate right now.”
Later, on ABC’s Good Morning America, Cone, a World Cup winner in 1999 as a USWNT midfielder, echoed Morgan’s appraisals.
“I think this is a huge win for everyone involved, but right now we’re focused on moving the game forward so this is actually a great transition moment,” she said. “We still have a lot of work to do with repairing the relationship with our players but we’re on the road to that but looking forward.
“They’re not only the best players in the world, they are great ambassadors for our sport and so now that we can work arm in arm together to grow the game both here at home and abroad and to raise the level of the women’s game across the globe, I think is really special and I’m really looking forward to turning the page on this and working together with our women’s team.”
How did we get here?
Tuesday’s agreement marks the resolution of a back-and-forth dating back to March 2019, when the USWNT filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against US Soccer.
With 28 of the team’s players listed as plaintiffs, the USWNT’s claim that they were paid less than the men’s national team was rejected in May 2020 by federal judge Gary Klausner, who ruled that the women’s side played more matches and made more money than their male counterparts.
Following the decision, two-time World Cup-winning USWNT players Christen Press and Tobin Heath told CNN of their desire to continue the fight for equal pay, with Heath describing the stakes as “bigger than anything we could ever win in football.”
In July 2021, the USWNT filed an appeal against the May 2020 ruling, saying the decision “defies reality” and was “legally wrong.”
US Soccer tweeted a statement in response to the team’s appeal, saying the decision “correctly held that the Women’s National Team was paid more both cumulatively and on an average per-game basis than the Men’s National Team.”
In September 2021, a US Soccer offer of identical contracts for the men’s and women’s national teams was labeled “PR stunts” by the United States Women’s National Team Players Association (USWNTPA).
“USSF’s PR stunts and bargaining through the media will not bring us any closer to a fair agreement,” the USWNTPA, which acts as a union for the players, said in a tweet.
“In contrast, we are committed to bargaining in good faith to achieve equal pay and the safest working conditions possible. The proposal that USSF made recently to us does neither,” it added.
The federation responded to the USWNTPA’s social media post soon after, tweeting, “An offer on paper of identical contracts to the USWNT and USMNT, and to discuss equalizing prize money, is real, authentic and in good faith. A publicity stunt is a 90-minute one-sided movie.”
CNN’s Sana Noor Haq contributed to this report.