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U.S. Soccer ‘surprised’ by federal lawsuit, committed to reaching common ground

President of U.S. Soccer Carlos Cordeiro presents a joint United bid by Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 World Cup at the FIFA congress in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The United States Soccer Federation was surprised by the federal class-action lawsuit filed by the entire U.S. women’s national team last week, according to an open letter from U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro.

“U.S. Soccer believes that all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay, and we strive to meet this core value at all times,” Cordeiro wrote in the letter released Friday, the federation’s first response to the allegations of gender-based discrimination outlined in the lawsuit. “Specifically, in April of 2017, we agreed to a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement with the Women’s National Team, which included a contract structure that the players specifically requested to provide them with a guaranteed salary and benefits. At no point since that time have players raised concerns about the CBA itself, and we continue to work with them in good faith.

“We were therefore surprised by the complaint filed last week by the U.S. Women’s National Team.” >>>Read the full letter from Cordeiro here<<<

The USSF is the governing body for the sport in America and pays the men’s and women’s national teams. The lawsuit demands a jury trial for violations of the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination between men and women who perform similar jobs, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

“We are disappointed that USSF is not being truthful about multiple attempts by the players and their representatives to discuss and address discrimination and unequal pay and treatment following the 2017 CBA,” said a statement released by the USWNT players in response to the open letter. “Even as we train to represent the U.S. in the upcoming World Cup, we look forward to pursuing these claims and continue to hope for an outcome where USSF complies with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.”

Since the lawsuit was filed last Friday, other leagues and athletes have thrown their support behind the 28 members of the USWNT who are simultaneously preparing for the 2019 World Cup, just three months away in France. Among the supporters is U.S. women’s coach Jill Ellis, who said, “Obviously, I work for the federation. I think they’ve done amazing things in terms of promoting, developing and evolving the women’s game, so there’s a lot of positives. I’m also a woman and I also recognize moments where we have to continue to push the envelope.”

Star U.S. forward Alex Morgan told Pro Soccer USA the fight “isn’t just about us; It’s about women in all industries. Women fight for equality every single day. Our hope is that we not only set up ourselves, we set up the next generation as well.”

Cordeiro’s open letter went on to say that U.S. Soccer will continue to “be a champions fo women’s soccer in the United States and on the global stage.” He also said the federation has increased its investment in the women’s game in recent years and worked “in close partnership with the players to ensure they have everything they need to perform at the highest level.”

That contrasts with the players’ complaints outlined in the lawsuit, which, in addition to being paid less for similar job responsibilities and better performance, included unequal travel conditions, playing conditions and marketing investments. 

“As we continue to review the lawsuit, we thought it was imperative to reach out to team leaders to better understand their thoughts and concerns,” Cordeiro wrote. “While we believe the current agreement is fair and equitable, we are committed to working with our USWNT players and understanding specifically where they believe improvement is needed.

“To that end, on Wednesday I spoke with some of the veteran players to better understand their thoughts and concerns. Our initial conversation was open, cordial and professional, and we will continue to work to resolve this matter. We are looking forward to additional meetings with the players in the near future so we may learn more about their objectives while they, in turn, can hear from us. Our mutual goal is a dialogue that will serve the best interests of the USWNT and U.S. Soccer, so that our collective focus is where it should be – winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup at a time when our team and soccer in the U.S. has so much to gain and celebrate.”

Cordeiro closed the letter by assuring the players that the federation remains a partner with “shared goals and aspirations” and that U.S. Soccer is optimistic about reaching common ground.

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