After World Cup, women’s team will challenge their employer for higher pay

SEATTLE -- The Netherlands are not the only challengers the U.S. women's national soccer team hopes to beat this year. As soon as the World Cup is over, the players face another battle: Their employers.

The best in women's soccer have an active lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming gender-based pay discrimination.

Female athletes get paid less than male athletes across the sports world, but these dynamic soccer players may have the best case to change that.

We've heard the argument: Men's sports make more so they deserve higher pay. In fact, according to the lawsuit, the USSF made that exact argument, claiming that, "market realities are such that the women do not deserve to be paid equally to the men."

The problem is that argument no longer works for women's soccer.

The Wall Street Journal audited USSF financial reports that showed that from 2016 to 2018, the women's national team actually outearned the men's team. With the continued dynamic success of the women's team this year, it's likely the same will be true for 2019.

The lawsuit details a number of pay discrepancies between how the USSF pays the men's and women's national teams.

According to the lawsuit, in the 2014 World Cup, the federation paid the men's national team performance bonuses totaling $5,375,000 after they lost in the Round of 16. In contrast, in 2015, the federation paid the women's team three times less that amount, just $1,725,000, even though the women's team won the entire tournament.

The women's team has also proven to have the marketable factor. This year's team jersey is the best-selling soccer jersey ever for Nike.com, higher than any men's team jersey.

The women suing USSF for equal pay appear to be in a strong bargaining position because of their success and the fact that they are pulling in the same or more money than their male counterparts.

Still, if they make strides in this lawsuit, other female athletes argue it will help all women's sports. One of those athletes is Seattle Storm superstar Sue Bird, whose girlfriend Megan Rapinoe is competing for the World Cup and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"It's women fighting for equal pay and fighting for equality across the board," Bird said. "So in that way, I think we can all benefit from those that are doing well and right now they're killing it. I know the audit came out where it showed that they're making just as much money as the men, so hopefully that's good for their case."

WNBA players are fighting their own battle. While the NBA pays players about 50 percent of league revenue, WNBA players get less than 25 percent of their league revenue.

In addition, the highest paid WNBA athlete makes about 20 percent what the lowest-paid NBA athlete makes. The women are fighting for higher revenue splits and higher salaries in a new collective bargaining agreement.

At the end of the day, all eyes are going to be on the soccer team this Sunday as they try to win an unprecedented fourth World Cup, but a lot of female athletes see a win in court as a win for women's sports as a whole.

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