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USWNT, USSF agree to mediation in gender-discrimination lawsuit after World Cup

Members of the U.S. women's national soccer team talk about their fight for gender equality ahead of the Women's World Cup in France. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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REIMS, France — All 28 members of the U.S. women’s soccer team reached a tentative agreement to pursue mediation with their bosses, the U.S. Soccer Federation, after the Women’s World Cup ends to resolve the gender-discrimination lawsuit they filed in March, a U.S. Soccer official confirmed Friday.

The U.S. women filed their 25-page lawsuit March 8, roughly three months before the World Cup kicked off in Paris. In the complaint, attorneys for the players argued that the USSF provided the women inferior wages, working conditions and investment in their game despite the players doing essentially the same job as the U.S. men’s national team.

Double-earners: USWNT fights for pay equality as it plays for its fourth World Cup title

The tentative agreement to pursue mediation after the World Cup was first reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal.

Both sides are interested in resolving the long-standing disagreement over pay and working conditions via mediation rather than a courtroom, according to two people with knowledge of each parties’ thinking.

But apparently U.S. Soccer had hoped to defer public discussion of potential mediation talks until after the World Cup ends July 7.

“We are disappointed the plaintiffs’ counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women’s World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team’s focus on the tournament and success on the field,” a spokesman for U.S. Soccer told The Washington Post on Friday afternoon. “We welcome the opportunity to mediate after the World Cup. At this time, we are focused on competing in the tournament. We look forward to everyone returning their focus to the efforts on the field as we aim to win another title.”

A spokesman for the players could not immediately be reached for comment.

There is no evidence that the lawsuit or any underlying tension between the athletes and their bosses has detracted from the team’s pursuit of its fourth World Cup championship, following triumphs in 1991, 1999 and 2015.

On the contrary, the U.S. women have set scoring records since launching defense of their World Cup title June 11 in Reims.

At roughly the midpoint of the tournament, the World Cup has provided a global stage for the excellence of the squad, which on Thursday finished atop its four-team group to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. It did so by scoring more goals over three matches — 18 — than any team in the 28-year history of the Women’s World Cup.

Its dominance through the early going has drawn more attention to the issue of pay equity — or the lack of it — relative to a U.S. men’s team that has never reached a World Cup final or won an Olympic medal.

That said, it is difficult to directly compare the salaries of the U.S. women to those of the men because they are compensated under different contract structures. The women reached their compensation formula under a 2017 collective bargaining agreement, requesting and receiving a guaranteed salary and benefits.

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