The U.S. women's national team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation on Friday in a fight over pay equity and working conditions.
According to court documents, all 28 members of the USWNT world championship team accused U.S. Soccer of years of "institutionalized gender discrimination," highlighting not just pay but also issues like medical treatment and transportation.
"The USSF has utterly failed to promote gender equality," the team alleges in the lawsuit. "It has stubbornly refused to treat its female employees who are member of the WNT equally to its male employees who are members of the MNT."
The players also argued that, despite current U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro previously admitting that "our women's teams should be respected and valued as much as our men's teams," the federation "has paid only lip service to gender equality and continues to practice gender-based discrimination against its champion female employees on the WNT in comparison to its less successful male employees on the MNT."
In 2016, five players—including Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo—filed a wage-discrimination action against the federation with the Equal Employment Opportuinity Commission. The players cited figures from U.S. Soccer's 2015 finanical report to argue that, despite generating nearly $20 million more revenue than the U.S. men's team that year, the women were paid about a quarter of what the men earned.
The team is now escalating that complaint, with players like Lloyd, Morgan and Megan Rapinoe requesting class action status. The decision to take their case to federal court "effectively ends the EEOC complaint," according to the New York Times, which reports that the U.S. players sought a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC last month.
The U.S. women's national team players association, which is not a party to the lawsuit, said Friday it supported the plaintiffs' goal to close "gaps between the compensation and working conditions" of women's national team players compared to men's national team players.
"The lawsuit is an effort by the plaintiffs to address those serious issues through the exercise of their individual rights," the statement reads. "For its part, the USWNTPA will continue to seek improvements in pay and working conditions through the labor-management and collective bargaining processes."
The union representing the U.S. men's national team released a statement supporting the USWNTPA on Friday afternoon.
"The United States National Soccer Team Players Association fully supports the efforts of the US Women's National Team Players to achieve equal pay," the statement read. "Specifically, we are committed to the concept of a revenue-sharing model to address the US Soccer Federation's 'market realities' and find a way towards fair compensation."
The players are requesting an award that would provide for liquidated and punitive damages and "all other appropriate relief."
The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off in France on June 7.