Five stars of the successful US women's football team have accused US Soccer of wage discrimination.
Co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo have filed a federal complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination.
They intend to argue that the women's team's consistent success on the world stage has made them US Soccer's driving economic force and raised the profile of football in the country. Lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said it could result a multi-million dollar settlement for US Soccer.
Kessler says US Soccer's budget figures show that the women earned as little as 40 per cent of what their male counterparts earned. That was in spite the women's national team's consistent success on the world stage and the men's side's distinct lack of success.
The women's team has won three of the last seven World Cups and never finished below third place in that time. They have also taken gold in four of the last five Olympic Games.
The men's national team's greatest success in that time was a quarter-final appearance at the 2002 World Cup. Hope Solo, who won the Golden Glove for the best goalkeeper at last year's World Cup, criticized US soccer and the men's national team wages.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Solo said. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships and the USMNT [men's team] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
Kessler says it's unclear how long it will take for the issue to be resolved, but the case looks set to loom over the organisation as both US national teams prepare for this summer's Rio Games.