In what they called a "historic" moment, five key players for the U.S. women's soccer team -- stars Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn -- have filed a federal complaint against U.S. Soccer over wage discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Despite producing higher revenues for U.S. Soccer, the women and their lawyer argue, they were paid nearly four times less what their male counterparts earned.

"I think the timing is right,'' Lloyd told Matt Lauer in an interview Thursday morning on "Today." "I think that we've proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large."

So how large is "too large"? According to reports, the filing alleges that if the women's team won all 20 of the minimum number of matches they are required to play in a year, they would actually earn less than the men would make if the men lost all of their 20 minimum-required games. Beyond differences in things like the bonuses received for the World Cup roster, female players even saw lower per diem rates and sponsor appearance fees, according to a report on

Meanwhile, the difference between what women and men earn in tournament prize money is among the highest of any sport where a gender pay divide remains. Combine that yawning gap with winning record of the U.S. women's team, as well as the team's extraordinary popularity, and it's hard to imagine a better group of leaders to fight the gender pay gap that exists in sports.

In 2014, the BBC did an exhaustive analysis of the prize money men and women earn in different sports. It found that of the 35 sports that pay prize money for major tournaments, 25 pay equally and 10 do not.

In some tournaments, such as golf's U.S. Open, the winner of the men's tournament ($1.8 million in 2015) was a little more than twice what the winning female player made ($810,000 in 2015). In squash, where leaders have talked about a commitment to prize parity, the men's championship purse is nearly twice what the women's is ($45,600, compared with $27,600 in 2014).

But the difference between what female soccer players make in tournament prize money compared to male soccer players is a chasm, not a gap. In the 2014 World Cup, the men's German team made $35 million for winning it all, 17 times more than the $2 million the U.S. women's team made in 2015 for coming in first. In other prestigious soccer tournaments for European teams, the difference between the men's and women's prize fund is a gorge: The winner of England's FA Cup will make $2.6 million, some 360 times the roughly $7,100 the Women's FA Cup winner will earn.

Indeed, only two sports analyzed by the BBC report have gaps that wide, neither of which has anything resembling the global popularity of soccer: Cricket, where the prize money for the ICC World cup was $3.975 million for the men, compared with just $75,000 for the women, and a game of billiards called "snooker," which pays the male winners of its championship more than 200 times what it pays the women.

Of course, some of these staggering differences are a result of a wide gap in viewership, interest and sponsorships of the men's and women's versions of the tournaments. In many sports, the men's championship games bring in more revenue, and therefore have more money to distribute to players.

But that's a harder argument when it comes to the U.S. women's soccer team. According to a New York Daily News investigation published just before the EEOC filing was announced, 26.7 million Americans tuned in to watch last summer’s women's World Cup final, a record number of viewers for any soccer game for this country. Meanwhile, budget numbers shared at U.S. Soccer's annual general meeting last month show that for fiscal year 2017, U.S. Soccer expects the U.S. women's team to have a surplus of more than $5 million, compared with a deficit of nearly $1 million for the men's team.

According to The Post's Matt Bonesteel, the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement that “While we’ve not seen this complaint and can’t comment on the specifics of it, we’re disappointed about this action," noting that "we’ve been a world leader in women’s soccer and are proud of the commitment we’ve made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years.”

What impact the complaint ultimately will have for how the U.S. women's soccer team is paid is, of course, unknown. But at a time when the debates over pay parity seem far from settled, even in those sports where prize money is equal -- witness the recent controversial comments about women's pay from top men's tennis figures -- it's hard to think of a group of women better positioned to be leaders on the issue than these five.

They're highly successful winners -- with three straight Olympic gold medals and three World Cup titles -- who are driving extraordinary interest in their sport, much like Venus Williams was when she fought to help women earn equal pay at Wimbledon. Their credible voice on the issue could help pay parity not only in the game of soccer, but in women's sports overall.

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