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USWNT disputes USSF filing in equal pay suit

A new filing from the plaintiffs in a pay discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer alleges that if members of the women's national team were paid under the same terms as the men's national team, they would have earned roughly three times as much as their actual compensation.

The information comes in a new brief filed Monday by the plaintiffs in response to a U.S. Soccer filing last week opposing certification of the players' class action status.

Twenty-eight members of the women's national team player pool filed suit against the federation in March. They alleged pay discrimination relative to members of the men's national team, among other complaints. Last month, the plaintiffs filed a motion requesting Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn be certified as class representatives in the suit.

U.S. Soccer subsequently opposed that certification on Sept. 30 on the grounds that the four named representatives had no standing because they "were paid more than the highest-earning MNT members and therefore have suffered no injury."

The U.S. Soccer filing included financial data showing Lloyd, Morgan, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn were each paid at least $1.1 million over the period from 2014-19, while the highest-earning men's national team player was paid $993,967 by the federation over the same period.

U.S. Soccer also included data showing the total earnings for each of the four women's players increased to $1.5 million for the period if NWSL salaries were included. Those salaries are also paid by U.S. Soccer, although the plaintiffs argue that isn't germane to a complaint regarding the matter of compensation while representing the national team.

In response to U.S. Soccer's motion, lawyers for the players argue that because the women's national team "played far more games than the MNT and amassed a far higher winning percentage, including earning two World Cup championships," any argument based on total remuneration is invalid. Representatives of the players cite a federal court ruling involving the Equal Pay Act that posited the "absurd result" of such arguments would permit an employer to pay a woman half as much as a man, as long as she worked twice as many hours.

As detailed in a declaration in support of the filing from Women's National Team Players Association executive director Becca Roux, the women's team played 14 more games than the men's team from Jan. 1, 2017, to the present. They won 83% of those games, including all seven games in the past summer's World Cup, compared to the men winning 48% of their games in the same period.

"The correct injury analysis is whether the plaintiffs would have earned more compensation under the pay rate policy of the MNT than they actually received under the pay rate policy of the WNT," the new filing reads. "And the undeniable answer ... is yes, as each of [Lloyd, Morgan, Rapinoe and Sauerbrunn] would have earned at least $2.5 million more over the same period had they been compensated under the MNT policy."

If members of the women's team operated under the same pay structure as the men's team, the new filing argues, the proposed class representatives would have earned considerably more than they actually did. Morgan, for example, would have earned a little more than $4.1 million from March 30, 2014, to Oct. 7, 2019, compared to the slightly more than $1.2 million she made.

"Women players on the U.S. national team have the exact same job as men players," said Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the plaintiffs. "And yet, a direct comparison shows that four of the top female national team athletes were paid less than one third of what a male player would earn if he played in the same number of games and achieved the same record of success as the women players. This is the very definition of gender discrimination, which is illegal.

"USSF has repeatedly tried to distort these figures -- including by hiring lobbyists, creating PowerPoint presentations with false data, trying to blame FIFA, and purposely manipulating the equation. But the math is simple: When the rates from the men's CBA are applied to each woman player's record and performance, the results show an unmistakably large pay gap."

ESPN reached out to U.S. Soccer for comment on the latest filing.

"As we've explained in the past, our men and women's national teams have different pay structures, not because of gender, but because each team chose to negotiate a different compensation package with U.S. Soccer," U.S. Soccer said in a statement. "It is not unlike employees who are paid on salary versus commission. The women chose to have a guaranteed salary of up to $172,500 per year, and in addition to this salary, they earn game and tournament bonuses, and receive a robust package of benefits. While the players on our men's national team can earn larger bonuses, they take more risk as they do not receive any guaranteed money or benefits within their pay-for-play contract structure."

The men's and women's national teams operate under separate collective bargaining agreements and separate pay structures. U.S. Soccer and the union representing the women's players agreed to a new CBA in 2017.

The players have long argued they were rebuffed in asking for the same terms as the men during the last negotiations.

A trial date has been set for May 5, 2020, a little less than three months before the start of play in the Olympics.

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