Cooler tone in new US Soccer women's equal pay filings

by Rebecca BRYAN
US star Megan Rapinoe wears her jersey inside-out to hide the US Soccer Federation logo during the national anthem before a SheBelieves Cup match against Japan in Frisco, Texas

Women players suing US Soccer say in court documents filed Tuesday that the federation has acknowledged the jobs of men and women footballers require equal skill.

The language seemed to signal a decrease in tension between the parties after language in documents filed by federation lawyers earlier in March provoked widespread outrage in saying that playing on the men's national team required a higher level of skill based on speed and strength and carried greater responsibility.

The fierce backlash, not only from the women players but from sponsors such as Coca-Cola, ultimately forced Carlos Cordeiro to resign as president of the federation, to be replaced by vice president Cindy Parlow Cone -- a former US international.

US Soccer brought in new legal counsel, which has focused in court filings on refuting the plaintiffs' claims that the federation violated the US Equal Pay Act and other anti-discrimination legislation.

"The parties have significantly narrowed the issues to be tried by way of discovery and briefing," Tuesday's filing from the players' lawyers said.

"USSF no longer disputes that the jobs of the WNT and MNT players require equal skill, effort and responsibility -- and therefore have necessarily conceded that they perform equal work."

The documents filed by the federation outlining the case they plan to make said the women players had not identified comparable male counterparts under the law -- which requires equal payment for men and women working "in the same establishment."

"The undisputed facts show that the WNT and MNT are both geographically and operationally distinct," the US Soccer filing said.

"The WNT and MNT play in different venues in different cities (and often different countries), and participate in separate competitions against completely different pools of opponents."

The federation again stated that apparent pay discrepancies are due to a different pay structure negotiated by the women's union.

The case is set to go to trial May 5.

Parlow Cone told reporters in a conference call last week that she would like to settle the case sooner.

"I don't think a trial is good for either party or for soccer, both in this country or internationally," she said. "Obviously our women's team is the best team in the world, and I am hopeful that we can find a resolution before this goes to trial."

Tuesday's filings also included potential witnesses for both sides. The lists included all four class representatives in the lawsuit: Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn.

Former US coach Jill Ellis, Cordeiro and another former federation chief, Sunil Gulati, could also appear.

US star Megan Rapinoe wears her jersey inside-out to hide the US Soccer Federation logo during the national anthem before a SheBelieves Cup match against Japan in Frisco, Texas