USWNT reaches $24 million settlement with U.S. Soccer over equal pay lawsuit

The United States women’s national soccer team has settled its equal pay lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The two sides announced the settlement in a court filing on Tuesday. The USSF will pay $22 million in a lump sum payment and an additional $2 million will be put into a fund to go to USWNT players after their playing careers are over. Each former USWNT player can apply for a maximum of $50,000 from the fund.

The settlement is official once a new collective bargaining agreement is finalized between the two parties. It comes after the USWNT filed an appeal to reverse a 2020 decision that dismissed parts of the lawsuit against the federation.

"There's no real justice in this other than this never happening again," midfielder Megan Rapinoe told ESPN. "With the settlement of the working conditions and this settlement which is contingent upon a CBA that will have equal pay going forward, there's no other way to look at it than just a monumental win for women's sports and women's soccer, in particular."

The players on the USWNT filed the class-action lawsuit saying they were underpaid compared to their less successful male counterparts. The pay inequity, the women said, was due to gender discrimination and the players initially asked for over $60 million in backpay. The May 2020 dismissal applied to the women's unequal pay accusations, though the fight continued after the USWNT's immediate appeal of that decision.

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 26: USWNT player Megan Rapinoe #15, top, celebrates with teammates after Rose Lavelle #16 of United States scored a goal against Korea Republic in the second half of the game at Allianz Field on October 26, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. United States defeated Korea Republic 6-0. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
The USWNT has won each of the last two World Cups. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The contracts between the USWNT players and the USSF and the men's players and the USSF have been structured differently. Men's players have been compensated based on their call-ups to the national team and appearances in games. The women's team had 16 full-time players on contract with the USSF on a base salary while others were compensated via a pay-to-play system.

In addition to lesser financial compensation, the USWNT players also alleged that their playing and travel conditions were worse than those of the players on the men’s national team. The men’s team has long played its home soccer games on natural grass while the women’s team has played some on turf. The women’s players also asked for charter flights like the men’s team received for its games.

The working conditions portion of the USWNT suit was settled in late 2020.

The women’s case was so persuasive that the men’s players union said over the summer that the women deserved to be paid more than they did. The United States women are the No. 1 team in the FIFA World Rankings and have won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals. Those four World Cup wins include the last two tournaments in 2015 and 2019. The USMNT failed to make the 2018 World Cup.