REIMS, France — The United States women’s national team’s lawsuit for equitable pay took a step forward Friday, when the United States Soccer Federation and players for the women’s national team tentatively agreed to enter mediation after the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
The USWNT is competing for its second consecutive World Cup title and just beat Sweden 2-0 Thursday night to advance to the round of 16. The World Cup ends with a July 7 final in Lyon.
A representative for U.S. Soccer confirmed the mediation agreement, first reported by the Wall Street Journal. When asked Saturday about the decision, U.S. defender Ali Krieger said, “Honestly, I haven’t thought about that once right now. We’re so focused on the game against Spain and that’s what’s important for us right now, and we’ll deal with everything once it comes. We haven’t said one word about it, no.”
The federal class-action lawsuit filed March 8 by 28 players, including all of the World Cup roster, alleged systemic gender-based pay discrimination, in addition to unequal marketing and playing, travel and training conditions. The lawsuit originally demanded a jury trial for violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“While we welcome the opportunity to mediate, we are disappointed the plaintiffs’ counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women’s World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team’s focus on the tournament and success on the field,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement.
The USSF is a nonprofit organization with the mission of growing the sport in the United States. Its main arguments against the lawsuit are that the men’s and women’s national team negotiated separate Collective Bargaining Agreements, which feature different pay structures. Because of that, U.S. Soccer said “fair and equitable pay” may be a more accurate term to use than equal pay when describing the ultimate goal.
USWNT games on average earned more revenue than the men’s games over the last three years, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited audited financial reports from U.S. Soccer.
“We’re here to win a World Cup. Lawyers are at home to do their thing. So, we both have our jobs,” defender Kelley O’Hara said. “This team has always been very good at compartmentalizing. We focus on the task at hand. I haven’t been paying any mind to anything that’s been going on, and that’s something that we’ll pick back up when we get home.”