No details were announced. A judge still must approve the proposal. The deal was reached about a month before the issue was set to go to trial.
“We are pleased that the players have fought for — and achieved — long-overdue equal working conditions,” said Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players.
USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former star player, called the settlement “just a first step. The goal for both sides in this was really to define a more structured way to provide both teams — the men and the women — with equitable support while still allowing for flexibility.”
The settlement is unrelated to claims by the women’s team of wage discrimination, which were dismissed in May. The players have said they planned to appeal that decision after the issue of working conditions was resolved. An appeal probably would not be heard for several months.
With Tuesday’s agreement, Levinson said, “we now intend to file our appeal to the court’s decision, which does not account for the central fact in this case that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job. …
“We remain as committed as ever to our work to achieve the equal pay that we legally deserve. Our focus is on the future and ensuring we leave the game a better place for the next generation of women who will play for this team and this country.”
After years of acrimony between the players and past USSF leadership, “I hope the women and their lawyers see we are taking a new approach,” said Cone, who in March became USSF president after Carlos Cordeiro resigned amid criticism of the federation’s handling of the case.
In May, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted summary judgment in favor of the federation, dealing a severe blow to the players’ efforts to recoup what they claimed was about $67 million in back pay.
The dispute is complicated because the U.S. men’s and women’s teams have different compensation systems. The men are paid for individual appearances and performances, while the women opted for a pay structure that includes more security in the form of negotiated annual salaries, child-care benefits and severance.
The women’s collective bargaining agreement is due to expire in early 2022. Cone said the federation has offered the women’s team a contract similar to the men’s.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “they didn’t want to negotiate” unless the back-pay issue was resolved first. Most of the players’ claims are tied to prize money for winning the World Cup, which they accomplished in 2015 and 2019. However, prize money is controlled by FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.
In 2018, FIFA awarded $38 million to France for winning the men’s tournament. A year later, the U.S. women received $4 million. Since then, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has suggested doubling the overall prize money for the women’s tournament and the organization’s investment in women’s soccer globally.
However, Cone said, agreeing to the U.S. players’ back-pay claim “just isn’t possible from [the USSF’s] standpoint. Even pre-covid, this would be devastating to our budget, our programming. With covid, it would likely bankrupt the federation.”
Cone said she hopes the women’s players will agree to negotiate rather than continue legal action. Multiple attempts at mediation have failed.
“We are 100 percent committed to equal pay,” Cone said. “Moving past this litigation is not only important for soccer in the U.S. but for soccer globally. We have the best women’s team in the world, and we are leaders in a lot of ways. Working together we can amplify our efforts to make a larger impact across the world. I would love to join forces with the women’s team and help push FIFA to equalize not only World Cup prize money but equalize their investment in the game at all levels.”
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