- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

The U.S. Soccer Federation has sought to clarify some of the claims made in a federal wage discrimination complaint filed by members of the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national team.

But the attorney representing the players says the federation is not clarifying the numbers, it’s distorting them.

The USSF said that as of Wednesday it had still not received the complaint filed by five players last month with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges women’s team players in some cases earn as much as four times less than their counterparts on the men’s national team.

U.S. Soccer maintains that the characterization is misleading because the men and women are paid differently under collective bargaining agreements and because the complaint’s allegation that the women generate more revenue is based on figures from last year, when the team won the World Cup and went on a victory tour.

The EEOC complaint comes after U.S. Soccer filed a lawsuit against the players’ union seeking to spell out terms of their CBA. The federation claims that a memorandum of understanding between the two sides doesn’t expire until the end of the year, while the union claims it has already expired.

The ongoing dispute leaves open the possibility of a strike or other labor action as the women’s team prepares for the Rio Olympics.

Over the past four years, 14 women were among the federation’s 25 top-paid players, and they averaged $695,269 in pay - compared to an average of $710,775 for the men, according to figures first reported by ESPNW.com.

U.S. Soccer also confirmed Thursday that of the players who made more than $1 million between 2008 and 2015, six were men and six were women. Those men averaged $1.4 million and the women averaged $1.2. But the disparity grows greater when comparing those who make less than the top players. The male player at No. 25 on the list made $580,000, whereas the similarly ranked woman made $341,000, according to a New York Times look at the numbers.

Differences also came in bonus pay and other compensation, like per diems. For example, men’s national team players are paid a $75 per diem for international matches, while the women are paid $60. Sponsor appearances are worth $3,750 apiece for the men, and $3,000 for the women.

Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney for the players, said the U.S. Soccer stance is simply spin.

“The facts are very, very simple,” Kessler said. “If a woman on the national team plays a game and a man on the national team plays a game, the amount - for just showing up - is always more for the man than it is for the women. Always. Every single time.”

Part of that disparity comes from the fact that the players are paid under different terms.

The women are paid salaries - they earn a biweekly paycheck from U.S. Soccer - with base pay of $72,000 for most players, and bonuses based on game appearances and wins. The women also earn a separate salary for play in the National Women’s Soccer League, as well as certain benefits the men don’t earn.

The men are paid on a pay-to-play basis for appearances with the national team. Because of the way the contract is structured, the men have the opportunity to make more per game because of bonuses. The women played additional victory tour matches following the World Cup last year.

The EEOC complaint claims that the women have the opportunity to boost their base salary to $99,000 if they win 20 friendlies in a year. The men are paid $5,000 for each appearance, with additional bonuses for wins and opponent ranking, bringing the potential to earn $263,320 for the same number of friendlies, it says.

“They are comparing men, who player fewer games and have a much lower level of success, and those men still earned more than women but not that much. If you compare men who play the same number of games and have the same success, they would earn 40 percent or more than the women. Those are the numbers, period,” Kessler said.

The conversation about wage disparity inevitably includes revenue. The EEOC filing claims the women made more money than the men’s team last year, which is accurate according to USSF figures. The women generated an estimated $17.7 million in the last fiscal year, for a $6.6 million profit after expenses. The men generated just under $2 million in profit.

But last year was a World Cup year for the women. The men’s World Cup was played the previous year. The women are projected to make more of a profit this year with an Olympic appearance. The senior men’s team cannot play in the Olympics.

While the two sides disagree in many instances, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said U.S. Soccer is committed to a fair deal.


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