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03/31/2016 11:11 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2016

USWNT Files Lawsuit Against U.S. Soccer In Fight For Equal Pay

The USWNT earned significantly less than the men’s players last year.

Five of the biggest names on the U.S. women’s national soccer team roster filed a complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation on Wednesday, demanding equal pay for equal work and calling for an investigation of what they believe to be U.S. Soccer’s discriminatory wage practices. 

The complaint comes less than nine months after the women’s team hoisted up the gold trophy at the 2015 World Cup, a feat the men’s team has never accomplished.

While Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo were the players who actually inked their names onto the filing, they emphasized they were taking action on behalf of the entire national team.

"Every single day we sacrifice just as much as the men. We work just as much," standout forward Morgan explained on NBC's "Today" Thursday morning. "We endure just as much physically and emotionally. Our fans really do appreciate us every day for that. We saw that with the high of last summer. We're really asking, and demanding now, that our federation, and our employer really, step up and appreciate us as well."

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The discrepancy in earnings is arresting. Per espnW, if the women win each of the minimum 20 friendlies they play annually and the men lose the same number of matches, the men’s side would still earn more than the women’s. The men get at least $5,000 for every additional contest they play over that 20-game baseline. The women receive no additional pay. 

"In this day and age, it's about equality,” Solo said. “It's about equal rights. It's about equal pay. We're pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it's our responsibility for women's sports, and specifically for women's soccer, to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights. And to be treated with respect."

According to the complaint, members of the USWNT earned roughly one-fourth of male players' earnings in 2015, despite riding their World Cup heroics to almost $20 million more in revenue for U.S. Soccer.

Perhaps most astonishingly, while the men pocketed $9 million after reaching the round of 16 in their 2014 World Cup, the women -- who blew through the round of 16 and marched all the way to the top of the winner’s podium -- pulled in just $2 million to divvy up between them.

"While we've not seen this complaint and can't comment on the specifics of it, we're disappointed about this action," the U.S. Soccer Federation stated in response to the filing. “We've been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we've made to building the women's game in the United States over the past 30 years." 

Later, U.S. Soccer added the following: 

The tension over equal pay and equal treatment has been long kindling between the USWNT and U.S. Soccer for some time. And that kindling began to spark higher and brighter last December when the women were scheduled to play a World Cup Victory Tour friendly against Trinidad and Tobago on a “horrible,” rock-ridden, torn-up field. The team refused to play in such conditions, shoving the issue into the national spotlight in the process.

For the USWNT, then, the complaint isn’t just about the money -- it’s also about the message. In no way, shape or form should our world champions ever be expected to compete on a field deemed dangerous and potentially detrimental. And they believe that that should be assumed going forward.

"We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. men's national team," Morgan added. "We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations and we simply want equal treatment."

Jeffrey Kessler, who’s been at the legal helm of several high-profile sports disputes such as Tom Brady’s Deflategate, filed the complaint, deeming U.S. Soccer’s “treatment” of the team “discriminatory and unfair.”

“This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen,” Kessler told NBC.

"When they asked for the same treatment as the men, they were told it was irrational. Now that might be a good answer in 1816. It's not [an] acceptable answer in 2016." 

For the women, the next step will be waiting to hear back from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as it investigates the claims made. If the EEOC sides with the five, the players could receive millions in back pay, per The New York Times.

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Even as the women broke record after record last summer, on the pitch and in the television ratings, they are still, somehow, treated and compensated as lesser-than. Today, the ever-direct Solo summed up the case concisely.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

 

The complaint can be read below.

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