CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The United States Women’s National Soccer Team is celebrating a victory off the field this week, winning a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
The legal decision awarded $24 million for the women who played in the 2019 World Cup, and a promise from the federation to pay the women equally to the men's team.
“You get told 'no' so many times, and so, just to see the needle move has been really cool,” said local sitting volleyball paralympic gold medalist Jillian Williams.
The fight for equal pay began six years ago when a select group of the USWNT began pursuing legal action.
It was in 2019 that several more team members joined in for a gender-discrimination class-action lawsuit.
Local athletes, such as the women of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi soccer team, were thrilled to hear the decision.
“It’s very exciting for a lot of young players because it shows that the national federation is taking girls soccer more seriously,” said A&M-CC junior midfielder Emma Gibbs.
senior forward Reaghan Lang sees the decision as a way to better showcase womens sports.
“I think it just proves that we’re here for a reason and we play our sports that we love," said senior forward Reaghan Lang. "And I think it will just get women sports out there in society and just showcase us more.”
All pay is based on the collective bargaining agreements the teams signed with U.S. Soccer Federation, respectively. Here are some examples of the disparity in the men's and women's pay:
According to ESPN, if their team qualifies for the World Cup, the men stand to earn a bonus of $2.5 million while the women earn $750,000. Each team can also earn bonuses for how far they make it in the tournament. A third-place finish means a bonus of $1.25 million for USMNT and $575,000 for USWNT. For second place it's $6.25 million for USMNT and $1.15 million. Lastly, if they win the World Cup, USMNT would earn $9.38 million and USWNT $2.5 million.
The women's team has won four World Cup titles. Then men's side has only made it as far as the semifinals in 1930.
Though Williams plays volleyball, was also excited to hear the news. She said her teammate, Katie Holloway, had been fighting a similar fight.
Williams said for the four years she's been on the national sitting-volleyball team, Holloway has been fighting for equal pay for paralympians.
Williams said that finally happened at last year's Tokyo Summer Games.
“Just the effort that has to be put forth to be able to fight for equalization across the board is huge,” Williams said.
These athletes feel the landscape of women’s pro sports will start changing.
“I think just the younger generation have something to look forward to more and just know that their sport’s well-known,” Land said.
Gibbs said that decisions such as this one let female athletes know they are valued, which is motivation to make their passion into a career.
"The amount of countries that base their decisions off of what the U.S. is doing, sports wise, is really cool," Williams said. "So, I think it’s going to be something that’s going to move needles across the board, not just in the U.S., but also across other countries.”
For the equal pay to take effect, the men’s and women’s teams will need to sign a new collective-bargaining agreement together later this year.
The other hurdle to overcome is that FIFA, the world soccer governing body, still doesn't pay men and women equally. Figuring out how the U.S. teams will accept that, is left to be debated.
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