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  • Writer's pictureVillanova Sports Law Blog

USWNT: Winning More Than Games

By: Daphne Ghirardi

As previous four-time World Champions and four-time Olympic Gold Medalists, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) has dominated women’s soccer for decades. Despite their dominance on the field, the USWNT has struggled to receive equal pay and treatment from U.S. Soccer – the USWNT’s employer and the federation that governs soccer in the United States. [1] A disputes between the USWNT and U.S. Soccer have been ongoing, the current, emboldened, and activist team has leveraged their widespread support and social media followings to focus attention to their cause. [2] The USWNT’s success has already resulted in FIFA doubling the prize in the summer Women’s World Cup, women’s teams no longer playing on artificial turf, and the USWNT receiving the same travel and hotel accommodations as the men. [3] Therefore, U.S. Soccer clearly recognizes the success of the USWNT.

Tensions between the USWNT and U.S. Soccer heightened when the USWNT filed a gender discrimination suit based on unequal pay and working conditions. The bulk of the suit was raised in a discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission nearly three years ago. [4] In the lawsuit, the players describe an “institutionalized gender discrimination” that has existed for years. The women argue that the discrimination affects their pay, playing schedule, training, medical treatment, and accommodations. [5] The USWNT are seeking equitable pay and treatment, as well as damages including back pay. [6].

On November 8, 2019, Judge Klausner granted the players class-action status. The USWNT argued for class-action status because the unfair compensation and working conditions affected any woman who appeared in a national team camp or game from March 2013 through December 2016, not just the 28 players named in the suit. [7] By granting the players class action status, Klausner rejected U.S. Soccer’s argument that there could be no gender discrimination because many women earned more than men’s players. In his opinion, Klausner wrote that agreeing with U.S. Soccer’s argument could produce an “absurd result” where women could be paid half as much as a man as long as she worked twice as many hours. [8]

The USWNT and U.S. Soccer have both filed for summary judgment because they believe there is no dispute about key facts. [9] The USWNT primarily argues it is an undisputed fact that U.S. Soccer is guilty of illegal wage discrimination because U.S. Soccer has failed to offer a reason, other than their gender, that the women are paid less. The women highlight the collective bargaining agreements for the men and women’s team which have entirely different pay structures. [10] The women also point to remarks by former U.S. Soccer president stating that the pay differences between the teams are justified because of “gender differences in ‘speed’ and ‘strength.’” [11] U.S. Soccer is asking Judge Klausner to dismiss the case entirely because the different pay schemes are determined through a collective bargaining agreement. U.S. Soccer argues that the pay is different because the Women’s National Team Players’ Association demanded a different collective bargaining agreement than the men’s team. [12]

Summary judgment for either party will essentially end this lawsuit. U.S. Soccer is asking for the case to be dismissed, so if summary judgment is granted the case will be completely dismissed before the jury trial. Although the USWNT is not asking for the case to be dismissed, a grant of summary judgment would mean that the jury cannot hear arguments about illegal wage discrimination. Illegal wage discrimination is at the crux of the USWNT’s suit and it is likely that they would win a jury over on the remainder of their case. It is also possible that if the USWNT is granted summary judgment, U.S. Soccer will try and settle before the case goes to trial in order to reduce the amount of damages they will have to pay.


[1] Das, A. (2019). U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Sues U.S. Soccer for Gender Discrimination. Retrieved from

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Hays, G. (2019). USWNT lawsuit: What we know and what it means going forwars. Retrieved from

[7] Das, A. (2019). U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Granted Class Status in Equal Pay Lawsuit. Retrieved from

[8] Id.

[9] McCann, M. (2020). The USWNT Cannot Strike and More Revelations from Latest U.S. Soccer Lawsuit Filings. Retrieved from

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

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