Five key members of the United States women’s national soccer team, the reigning Women’s World Cup and Olympic champion, have filed a federal complaint charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination.
In the filing, the five players contend that the women’s team is the driving economic force for U.S. Soccer, the governing body for the sport in America, even as its players are paid far less than their counterparts on the men’s national team, their lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, said.
The players involved in the complaint are among the most prominent and decorated female athletes in the world: the co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo.
In their complaint — which was submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, on Wednesday — the players requested an investigation of U.S. Soccer. But in taking official action, they also thrust their team into a debate roiling in several sports, notably professional tennis, about equal pay for men and women.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the USMNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
Citing budget figures released last month by U.S. Soccer, Kessler said the players contend that they earned as little as 40 percent of what players on the United States men’s national team earned even as they marched to the team’s third world championship last year, and that they were shortchanged on everything from bonuses and appearance fees to per diems.
“This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen,” Kessler said.
Though only five players signed the complaint, they said they were acting on behalf of the entire women’s team, saying they are all employees of U.S. Soccer through their national team contracts.
“While we have not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement, “we are disappointed about this action. We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”