Five World Cup winners from the U.S. women’s national team have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) citing wage disparities between the female and men’s soccer teams.
In an action filed on March 31 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, players Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Hope Solo say they are paid almost four times less than their male counterparts.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said in the statement.
“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT [men] get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. men’s team has never won a World Cup, the closest they have gotten is the quarterfinals in 2002.
The women soccer stars also pointed out that they have high rating records for their games. Last year, a record 26.7 million people watched the women’s team beat Japan in the World Cup final.
“The reality is that this team is more valuable to the USSF than the men’s team has been. That’s what the facts show,” said Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who is representing one of the players.
“And they would be justified in asking for more than the men are receiving. But the first step that they are seeking is equal treatment. That should be an easy step for the USSF to take,” he said.
The women’s team earned $2 million collectively when they won the World Cup last year. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the men’s team earned $9 million, despite being knocked out in the round of 16 (the stage before the quarterfinals). The men’s team has also failed to qualify for the Olympics two times in a row.
The top female players on the team are paid about $72,000 a year by U.S. Soccer—plus bonuses, for playing a minimum of 20 exhibitions. But, unlike the men’s team, they only receive bonuses if they win the exhibition games.
Women’s national team players may earn $99,000 if they win all 20 matches, while males can earn $263,320 for the same feat—more than 2.5 times higher.
The lawsuit also states that women players earn $30,000 for making the World Cup team, while the men are paid $68,750.
The U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement, “We have been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”
“These women are very disappointed in U.S. soccer,” said Kessler, responding to the statement on the Today Show.
“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,” he added.
Gender inequality isn’t only about money. Last year, a group of players led by soccer star Abby Wambach filed a complaint in Canada about the artificial turf playing surface, stating that the men’s World Cup is played on natural grass. The women’s team also refused to play a friendly match in Hawaii, citing unsafe field conditions.
The women plan to keep moving forward with the wage discrimination suit.
“This is a fight that we are going to have to continue to fight from here on forward,” Solo said.
“I don’t see it getting any easier, but it is something we are committed to. And it’s not just in the sports world, it’s everywhere you look.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.