CHICAGO—The prospect of a strike having been dashed by a federal judge, the U.S. women’s national team is now bound by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement until the end of 2016. It’s also free to concentrate on becoming the first to win a Women’s World Cup and Olympic gold medal in back-to-back years.
Speaking hours before the men resurrected their Copa América Centenario hopes, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati expressed his confidence that the women will do just that. “The hurt feelings generally don’t last very long,” he said, adding that there’s even a chance a new deal could be in place by the time the Olympic tournament kicks off on August 3 in Belo Horizonte.
“I don’t think the tension is affecting anything we’ve seen [on the field] … and I think the players are completely focused,” Gulati said. “They are very determined to win another gold medal. It’s possible that we have a new agreement before then. We’re going to do everything we can to get that done in a timely fashion.”
Despite the dispute over pay and working conditions, which was highlighted by a March complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. remain unbeaten in 2016. A June 2 draw with Japan halted an 11-game win streak, then the Americans rebounded three days later with a 2-0 victory over their Women’s World Cup final rivals. The U.S. will began preparing for the Olympics with a July 9 friendly against South Africa in Chicago, where the federation is based.
“I think we’ll get to a resolution, but it’s one that has to work and be in line with the economics as well. It can’t be divorced from the economics … and what revenues are, what television ratings are. All those things, those are quantifiable. I don’t know how to quantify the word ‘fairness’,” Gulati said when asked about the complexities of the negotiation. “I’d love to get it done sooner rather than later so we put to rest all the issues … any tension and any distraction, but we can’t promise you that.”
Even if the pre-Olympic ideal isn’t achieved, there’s still plenty of time to hammer out a new CBA.
“We have an agreement through December 31, so there’s no uncertainty about the next seven months,” Gulati said.
What’s being discussed now are terms that would apply beginning in 2017.
“There’s some natural adversarial parts of it, but frankly I’m not in the middle of this with the players directly,” Gulati explained. “There’s lawyers on both sides and there’s three different parts to the process, and in a way only one of the parts is critical. One part is over, which is the federal court here, that decision which means through the end of this year there’s what we’ve said all along—a collective bargaining agreement that exists that we’ve been living by for 3.5 years and will continue to do so.
“The second part is the EEOC filing, which will take a long time as I understand those processes,” he continued. “But the third part, which is the most important part, is the ongoing discussion between the federation and the players. I have no doubt that we’ll reach an agreement at some point. I can’t tell you when that will be … We would love to get that done as soon as possible, but I’m not going to predict whether that’s going to happen before the Olympics.”