USSF, USWNT reach mediation impasse over pay

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The United States Soccer Federation and members of the women's national team reached an impasse Wednesday in their attempts to mediate the ongoing dispute over equal pay, with a spokesperson for the players saying they "eagerly look forward to a jury trial."

Spokesperson Molly Levinson released the statement on behalf of the U.S. players after mediation ended Wednesday evening.

"We entered this week's mediation with representatives of USSF full of hope," Levinson said in the statement. "Today we must conclude these meetings sorely disappointed in the Federation's determination to perpetuate fundamentally discriminatory workplace conditions and behavior.

"It is clear that USSF, including its Board of Directors and President Carlos Cordeiro, fully intend to continue to compensate women players less than men. They will not succeed. We want all of our fans, sponsors, peers around the world, and women everywhere to know we are undaunted and will eagerly look forward to a jury trial."

U.S. Soccer said in a statement: "We have said numerous times that our goal is to find a resolution, and during mediation we had hoped we would be able to address the issues in a respectful manner and reach an agreement. Unfortunately, instead of allowing mediation to proceed in a considerate manner, plaintiffs' counsel took an aggressive and ultimately unproductive approach that follows months of presenting misleading information to the public in an effort to perpetuate confusion.

"We always know there is more we can do. We value our players and have continually shown that, by providing them with compensation and support that exceeds any other women's team in the world. Despite inflammatory statements from their spokesperson, which are intended to paint our actions inaccurately and unfairly, we are undaunted in our efforts to continue discussions in good faith."

Although equal pay has been a point of contention between the federation and the players for years, with five prominent players filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016, the current dispute began when 28 members of the national team player pool filed suit this past March alleging gender discrimination.

The two sides subsequently agreed to enter mediation after the Women's World Cup.

Cordeiro released a public letter on July 29 that attempted to make the case that U.S. Soccer had paid members of the women's national team more than their male counterparts over the span of nearly a decade. Representatives of the players argued that the numbers unfairly counted the salaries that women players receive for playing in the National Women's Soccer League.

Asked about Cordeiro's letter before the opening game of the current Victory Tour, Megan Rapinoe said it caught her by surprise because it was her understanding that the two sides wouldn't speak publicly about the matter while mediation was ongoing.

No new mediation is currently scheduled.

"The world looks to the U.S. to lead," Levinson said. "And the players would like to tell the world that the USSF pays women equally to men. The goal is equal pay."

When asked if Wednesday's statement precluded any attempts at further mediation, Levinson pointed to a letter to U.S. Soccer officials dated Aug. 12 and signed by all 28 players involved in the suit that seems to leave open the possibility of resolution out of court.

"For both parties, the risk of not resolving our disagreements over equal treatment that were not addressed either in bargaining or through the EEOC is too high," the letter from the players stated. "U.S. Soccer's reputation, sponsor relations, fan support and federal funding for the 2026 World Cup tournament are all at risk, and that risk continues should we not reach resolution. We have demonstrated that we can perform at high levels on the field even while pursuing equality off the field, but it is certainly not what we want to continue to go through with a new coach and the upcoming Olympic Games if a resolution is possible.

"While we are prepared to take our equal pay fight through a trial if necessary, we believe that both sides would benefit from an equal pay and equal working conditions settlement now."