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US Soccer kicks in $24 million to settle equal pay suit by women’s team

The settlement caps a six-year battle by the world champion women's team to get paid the same as the men's team.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The U.S. Soccer Federation settled a lawsuit by current and former members of the women's national team, including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, who claimed they were paid less than players on the men's team.

Under the terms of the settlement, the women will receive $24 million, including $22 million for the 28 players who brought the lawsuit and $2 million to establish a charitable fund for women's and girls' soccer. The women had sought as much as $67 million in compensation for being underpaid for years.

“We are pleased to announce that, contingent on the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement, we will have resolved our longstanding dispute over equal pay and proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer," U.S. Soccer and the players said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The women's team, winners of the 2015 and 2019 World Cup, have far outshined their male counterparts in terms of global success. Yet, they have had to fight for six years to achieve equal-pay status, starting with a 2016 filing with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was the precursor to their 2019 federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.

The women claimed U.S. Soccer had "utterly failed to promote gender equality" and that the federation had justified the pay disparity by "market realities" even though the women's team earned more profit, played more gams, earned more championships and garnered bigger television audiences.

Their equal-pay claims, however, got rebuffed by a federal judge who ruled the women got paid what they had bargained for under their collective contract. That decision proved to be a setback in particular given the support the women's team had received after the federation tried to argue in court that playing for the women’s national team required less skill, responsibility and ability than playing for the men’s national team.

"It's a historic day for us!" Morgan said in a tweet. "It's been years and years of fighting for equality within our sport. Today we accomplished that with US Soccer!"

The players' lawsuit remains pending at the Ninth Circuit, where they sought to reinstate their equal-pay claims.

In a filing Tuesday, the federation and the players asked the Ninth Circuit to postpone oral arguments in the case that are scheduled for March 7. According to the filing, they need to finalize the agreement and satisfy its condition, ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement. Then they need to ask the judge in Los Angeles to approve the settlement because it's a class-action case that requires court approval.

“We have been privileged to represent the WNT players in this historic equal pay fight," Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney for the women, said in an email. "The settlement achieves what the women have always sought — a commitment by USSF  to provide equal pay in the future for all games, including the World Cup, and meaningful damages to compensate the players for the wrongs of the past. “

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