The United States Women’s Soccer Team (WNT) has filed a complaint against U.S. Soccer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The complaint, which was announced on Thursday, March 31, accuses U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) of failing to pay the WNT wages equal to those of the U.S. Men’s National Team (MNT) for equal performances.
Five members of the WNT—Co-Captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan—filed the complaint, although Sauerbrunn said they are merely representatives for the team.
"Five players signed the complaint, but the decision to file was whole-heartedly supported by the entire team," Sauerbrunn said in a Tweet Thursday morning.
Shortly after news of the complaint broke, other WNT players took to social media to take a stand against the inequalities they feel they have suffered.
In a statement released by the players and their lawyer, the team claims that the WNT is paid almost four times less than the MNT despite bringing in almost $20 million in revenues for USSF.
"We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly," Lloyd said in the statement.
In response to the players’ complaint, U.S. Soccer released a statement saying, "For 30 years, we have been a world leader in promoting the women’s game and are proud of the long-standing commitment we have made to building women’s soccer in the United States…."
News of the filing comes just one day after NY Daily News published an article titled "How U.S. Soccer mistreats World Cup-winning Women’s National Team." The article outlines the discrepancies between the treatment of the MNT and the WNT, including a disparity in pay despite the WNT bringing in more revenue and awards.
For example, for winning the Women’s World Cup this past July, the WNT received a $1.8 million bonus to be divided among the 24-player team. The MNT received a $3.6 million bonus just for reaching the round of 16, where they were eliminated from the tournament after a 2-1 loss to Belgium.
According to those numbers, the U.S. WNT received half as much money in bonuses for winning the World Cup as the MNT did for being eliminated in the first elimination round. It is also worth noting that, if the women were to be eliminated in the round of 16, they would receive no bonuses from U.S. Soccer.
"We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the U.S. MNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships," Solo said in the statement.
The women also receive significantly less pay for playing in friendlies than the men do, while friendlies are a major source of revenue for U.S. Soccer, especially on the women’s side.
In the complaint filed by the WNT, the team claims that a top-tier WNT player would receive only 38% of what a top-tier player for MNT would make for the same number and outcomes of friendly matches played.
One major argument against the WNT receiving equal pay is that the WNT does not generate the same interest or revenue as the MNT. However, according to budget reports released by U.S. Soccer earlier this year, the WNT earned over $17 million in revenue, resulting in over $5 million in profits for USSF. In comparison, the MNT earned just over $9 million, costing USSF almost $1 million in losses.
Depending on the timeline and outcome of the EEOC’s investigation into the WNT’s complaint, the WNT players may strike. If they do, this means that the United States would not send either soccer team to the Olympics in August, since the U-23 MNT failed to qualify for Rio on Tuesday. It would be the first time since 1980 that the United States did not send a soccer team to the Summer Games.
A WNT strike would also affect the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), still in its preseason, since USSF is a governing body for it. This means that all ten NWSL teams would be without major players during the strike, which could greatly affect outcomes of key matches.
Rumblings of a WNT strike back in February led USSF to file a suit against the WNT Player’s Association, the union representing the WNT. In the suit, USSF asked the courts to rule if the CBA from 2012 was still in effect. The player’s association filed a counter suit against U.S. Soccer just days later in response.