8: 17 PM ET
U.S. Soccer said it recently offered members of the women’s national team a pay structure identical to the men’s national team for games it controlled, according to a letter sent to federation members to update the ongoing wage discrimination lawsuit brought by players.
However, a spokesperson for the players involved in the lawsuit immediately contested that claim and questioned the timing on the evening before the U.S. plays Spain in New Jersey in the SheBelieves Cup (watch live on ESPN at 5 p.m. ET on March 8).
In a letter dated March 7, U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro wrote that “identical compensation to our women’s and men’s players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer” was among multiple offers to the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association to renegotiate the current collective bargaining agreement. The offer, including identical bonus structure and per-game bonus payments, was in an effort to settle the lawsuit scheduled for trial in May.
The USWNTPA, which Cordeiro said the offers were made to, is responsible for the CBA that governs compensation for women’s players but is not a party to the lawsuit alleging wage discrimination brought last year by 28 members of the national team player pool.
“The USSF letter is riddled with falsehoods and issued on the eve of the SheBelieves game, which demonstrates that it is more important to USSF to diminish the women’s team than it is to support them on the field,” said Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the plaintiffs. “USSF did not and has never offered equal pay to the women players.”
Cordeiro went on to write in the letter that players had thus far declined to meet with U.S. Soccer about the offers “on the premise that our proposal does not include U.S. Soccer agreeing to make up the difference in future prize money awarded by FIFA for the Men’s and Women’s World Cups, a number that would be more than $34 million today.”
France received $38 million when its men’s team won the 2018 Men’s World Cup, while the U.S. received $4 million for winning the 2019 Women’s World Cup. FIFA president Gianni Infantino has committed to doubling prize money for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, but that would leave a gap of $380 million in total prize money between that event and the 2022 Men’s World Cup.
Cordeiro reiterated the federation’s longstanding position that it is not responsible for FIFA decisions on compensation, such as World Cup prize money, and that taking on an effort to make up the gap would “seriously impair” the federation’s fiscal health.
Levinson’s statement on behalf of the plaintiffs said the federation “based their math” on men’s rates from 2011. The men’s national team most recent CBA expired in 2018.
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That statement did not address World Cup prize money specifically but said the federation, among other things, “employed dishonest tactics by asking to speak to players and their legal representatives in confidence, demanding confidential conversations, and then immediately leaking the conversations to the media using distorted information.”
Asked for clarification on the issue of request by the players on the issue of World Cup prize money, Levinson said: “In the U.S. it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender. USSF cannot use ongoing FIFA discrimination as a justification for breaking the law.”
The statement said the federation’s offer “disregarded entirely a commitment for equal workplace conditions, which have long been discriminatory and unacceptable.”
The offer of identical compensation as described by Cordeiro would represent a marked contrast from the federation’s contentions in recent filings in the lawsuit.
In a motion for summary judgment last month, lawyers for U.S. Soccer continued to make the case that, in addition to negotiating separate collective bargaining agreements through their respective unions, the men’s and women’s teams do not perform the same jobs.
“Plaintiffs and the MNT players do not perform equal work requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions,” the motion stated, using the criteria and language set out in the Equal Pay Act under which, in part, the players brought their suit.
In her statement, Levinson said the plaintiffs looked forward to the May 5 trial.
The U.S. women anticipate a sellout crowd at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey for its second game of the SheBelieves Cup after defeating England 2-0 in the opening game of the four-team tournament.