May 5, 2020 - Sports

USWNT vows to challenge legal setback in equal pay fight

USWNT players' Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan

Photo: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The USWNT's claim that they had long been underpaid was rejected by a federal judge on Friday, after the players accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of "institutionalized gender discrimination" last year.

Driving the news: In a written decision, Judge R. Gary Klausner said the women hadn't provided enough evidence of pay discrimination to take the issue to the scheduled June 16 trial.

  • According to Klausner, the USWNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the men in 2017, opting instead for a deal that promised more security (higher base compensation) but a lower pay ceiling.
  • Klausner concluded that the plaintiffs "cannot now retroactively deem their [contract] worse than the [men's contract] ... when they themselves rejected such a structure."
  • Klausner also concluded that from 2015 to 2019 the women were paid more than the men by U.S. Soccer.

The other side: In an appearance on "Good Morning America" on Monday, USWNT captain Megan Rapinoe said the women were never offered the same contract as the men, undercutting Judge Klausner's dismissal.

  • She also pointed out that, while the women did in fact make more than the men over the past five years, it's because the women won two World Cups and played more games, as the men failed to even qualify for theirs.

What's next: The team is appealing the decision. The case is still scheduled to go to trial on June 16, albeit with a narrower focus (i.e. unequal treatment regarding travel) that falls short of the "equal pay" precedent the players hoped for.

"We are shocked and disappointed ... but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay. We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender."
ā€” Molly Levinson, USWNT spokeswoman


  • March 2019: Three months before the start of the Women's World Cup, the USWNT files a gender-discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer, alleging the federation pays them less and treats them worse than their male counterparts.
  • July 2019: After dominating the World Cup from start to finish, the USWNT clinches the title in France, and the crowd erupts in chants of "Equal pay!" A ticker-tape parade in New York follows, and the movement continues to build.
  • March 2020: In a legal filing widely condemned as misogynistic, the USSF argues that the pay disparity between men and women is justified because "indisputable science" proves that women are inferior athletically. Sponsors blast the federation, and president Carlos Cordeiro resigns days later.

The big picture: "U.S. Soccer has said that compensating the women at the level they demand would be ruinously expensive," writes the New Yorker's Louisa Thomas (for reference, they're seeking ~$67 million in back pay).

  • "To avoid it, they pursued a scorched-earth policy, and there will be costs to that, too."

Go deeper: U.S. women's soccer team plans to appeal equal pay decision

Go deeper