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Women’s Soccer Stars Take On Unequal Pay

(CN) - Five members of the World Cup champion U.S. women's national soccer team laid down their first brick toward a sex-discrimination lawsuit for disparate payment.

Despite bringing in millions in revenues in 2015, winning four World Cup Championships and taking home four Olympic gold medals, players Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo on Wednesday told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C., that they are paid nearly four times less than players on the men's team.

Filing with the EEOC is the first step in what will likely be a civil rights lawsuit.

"We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the [U.S. Soccer Federation] would do the right thing and compensate us fairly," Lloyd said.

Rapinoe added, "Recently, it has become clear that the federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work."

"The numbers speak for themselves," said Solo, who's been with the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (USWNT) for 15 years and helped take it to four Olympic championships. "We are the best in the world."

Sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler with Winston & Strawn LLP noted that the women submitted a "reasonable proposal" for new contracts to be paid like their male counterparts.

"U.S. Soccer responded by suing the players in an effort to keep in place the discriminatory and unfair treatment they have endured for years, but are now fighting to end on behalf of all female athletes," Kessler said.

Morgan added that she also wants to play on the same types of fields that male players enjoy.

"We want to play in top-notch, grass-only facilities like the U.S. Men's National Team. We want to have equitable and comfortable travel accommodations, and we simply want equal treatment," she said.

An attachment to the EEOC filing says USWNT players make $30,000 total for being asked to try out for the World Cup team and making the roster, while USMNT players get paid $68,000 for making their World Cup team's roster.

"There are no legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for this gross disparity of wages, nor can it be explained away by any bona fide seniority, merit or incentive system or any other factor other than sex," the filing states.

With a headline trumpeting, "One Nation. One Team.," the U.S. Soccer Federation issued a statement Wednesday showing its "unwavering" support of the women's team.

"We are committed to and engaged in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses compensation with the Women's National Team Players Association, to take effect when the current [contract] expires at the end of this year," the statement says.

U.S. Soccer said that there have been three unsuccessful attempts by "private entities" to "maintain a women's professional league," and that the association was "committed to investing in and administering the National Women's Soccer League to ensure our women's players would have an ongoing professional environment in which to continue their careers."

The federation also pointed out that, since 2012, U.S. Soccer has employed a women's technical director and invested in full-time coaches for the Youth Women's National teams. Just recently, it announced the launch of a Girl's Development Academy Program to begin next fall.

"We are committed to continuing to elevate women's soccer in the future at all levels," the U.S. Soccer Association said.

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