The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has accepted a settlement from the sport’s governing body in their legal battle for pay equity between the men’s and women’s national teams.
Announced on Feb. 22, the settlement ends a years-long legal battle for the dozens of women who challenged their employer to bring about changes off the playing field, especially concerning monetary compensation. The agreement between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the women’s national team members — both current and former — involved in the gender discrimination suit includes a $24 million payout and a pledge from the federation to pay the men and women equally going forward.
It took six years from the start of the lawsuit to finally reach a settlement.
“It wasn’t an easy process to get to this point for sure,” U.S. Soccer’s president, Cindy Parlow Cone, said in an interview with The New York Times. “The most important thing here is that we are moving forward, and we are moving forward together.”
The bulk of the $24 million settlement — $22 million — is earmarked for bridging the wage gap claimed by the plaintiffs in the case. The remaining $2 million will cover back pay and go into a charitable fund for women’s and girls’ soccer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
There is a contingency in the new settlement, though, according to the Times: It does not go into effect until a new contract between U.S. Soccer and the women’s players union is ratified. Once the contract is agreed upon, all claims filed against the organization will be considered resolved.
This settlement marks a surprising turn of events in the case. A district judge had ruled against the women in 2020, dismissing their equal pay arguments, and a hearing for their appeal was scheduled for just two weeks from now, on March 7.
The settlement falls short of the $67 the women had pushed for in early 2021. But in September 2021, the U.S. Soccer Federation offered identical contracts to the players of both the men’s and women’s national teams.
Now, with the settlement in sight (pending the ratification of the contract), several of the women have said they’re encouraged by this progress.
Megan Rapinoe, a star of the women’s national team who filed the gender discrimination suit back in 2019 before their World Cup appearance, which they won, praised the settlement as a big step forward for women and the sports world.
“This is going to be one of those incredible moments that we look back on and say the game changed forever, U.S. Soccer changed forever, and the landscape of soccer in this country and in the world changed forever because of this,” she told The Washington Post.