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A timeline of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s equal pay dispute with U.S. Soccer

The U.S. women’s soccer team won the 2019 World Cup months after it filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging pay discrimination. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)
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Members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team announced Tuesday that they had reached a $24 million settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation over claims that they had been systematically underpaid for years when compared with the U.S. men’s team.

The women’s players filed their lawsuit in March 2019, and the case has taken several turns over the past three years before finally reaching a resolution. Here’s a look back at the key events.

U.S. Soccer, USWNT members settle equal pay lawsuit for $24 million

March 8, 2019: The members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team file a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, the sport’s governing body in this country. The players accuse the national federation of paying lower salaries to women and subjecting them to more dangerous playing conditions than their male counterparts, and they ask for nearly $67 million in back pay and compensation.

July 7, 2019: The U.S. women win their second straight World Cup and fourth overall with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, spurring chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” from the stands during the team’s victory celebration.

“Everyone is ready for this conversation to move to the next step,” U.S. co-captain Megan Rapinoe said after the game. “I think we’re done with: ‘Are we worth it? Should we have equal pay? [Are] the [male and female] markets the same?’ Yada, yada. Everyone is done with that. Fans are done with that. The players are done with that … What’s next? How do we support women’s federations and women’s programs around the world? … It’s time to move that conversation forward to the next step.”

For comparison’s sake, the U.S. men have never advanced past the quarterfinals in the modern-era World Cup — its lone run to the semifinals came in the inaugural 1930 event, which featured only 13 teams — and didn’t even qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

March 11, 2020: U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro apologizes for a court filing that argued players for the women’s national team have less “skill” than their male counterparts. Cordeiro would resign the next day, though he has since announced his desire to return to the position in a challenge to Cindy Parlow Cone, who replaced him as U.S. Soccer president.

May 1, 2020: A U.S. District Court judge in California rejects the notion that the U.S. women’s players have been underpaid relative to the men but rules that the players’ additional claims of unequal treatment in terms of travel, medical staff and training equipment can go forward.

In rejecting the equal-pay portion of the lawsuit, Judge R. Gary Klausner noted that the U.S. women had agreed to a different pay structure than the men in their previous collective bargaining agreement: While the men operate under a pay-for-play salary model, with players earning more for victories, the women opted for a pay structure that includes more security in the form of negotiated annual salaries, maternity and child-care benefits, and severance pay when they are no longer on the team. Because the women had agreed to that salary model, Klausner said they could not retroactively claim their collective bargaining agreement was inferior to that of the men.

The U.S. women were “shocked and disappointed,” a spokeswoman said. They would appeal to the full Ninth Circuit panel in 2021.

May 2, 2020: Presidential candidate Joe Biden promises to cut funding for the 2026 Men’s World Cup in the United States unless U.S. Soccer agrees to give the women equal pay.

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Nov. 22, 2021: A Washington Post report reveals that players on the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League had filed a report to U.S. Soccer, which operates the league, regarding abuse by Coach Rory Dames in early 2018. Dames was twice cleared by U.S. Soccer and kept his job until he resigned shortly before The Post published its story.

Dames had coached national team players, including Christen Press, who said she first spoke up about Dames in 2014 during a meeting with Sunil Gulati, then the president of U.S. Soccer, and other U.S. Soccer officials. Press said Gulati dismissed her concerns by saying Dames’s behavior was normal for a professional coach, and she said she was told that she had to play in the NWSL to keep her spot on the national team.

Subsequent Post reporting found that allegations had been filed against Dames as far back as 1998, when he was a youth coach. In February, several national team stars publicly criticized U.S. Soccer for its “willful inaction” on the Dames accusations and said the organization’s failure to act was tied in to its overall treatment of female players.

“There is no justice unless this never happens again,” Rapinoe said. “It’s all part of the same system. It’s part of a system of disrespect and of misogyny and sexism and inequality and discrimination. This is the first step, not the last step.”

Five NWSL coaches resigned or were fired amid misconduct allegations, and U.S. Soccer enlisted former acting attorney general Sally Yates to investigate.

Feb. 3, 2022: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asks the Ninth Circuit to be allowed to participate in the players’ appeal of the earlier ruling about equal pay, with opening arguments set for March 7.

Feb. 22, 2022: The national team players reach a $24 million settlement with U.S. Soccer, which also agrees to pay the men and women at an equal rate moving forward.

The agreement includes $22 million for the 28 players who filed the lawsuit and establishes a $2 million charitable fund for women’s and girls’ soccer but falls short of the $67 million they had asked for in their suit.

“This is going to be one of those incredible moments that we look back on and say the game changed forever, U.S. Soccer changed forever, and the landscape of soccer in this country and in the world changed forever because of this,” Rapinoe said of the settlement.