Twenty-eight members of the United States women’s national team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation on Friday.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, comes just three months before the team begins its World Cup defense in France.
Five USWNT players filed a wage discrimination lawsuit through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016 and with that matter yet to be resolved, the issue has now been escalated.
“Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that,” U.S. striker Alex Morgan said in a news release.
“We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender."
The class-action lawsuit will allow any players from the team since February 2015 to join the suit.
The USSF has "paid only lip service to gender equality and continues to practice gender-based discrimination against its champion female employees on the WNT in comparison to its less successful male employees on the MNT," the suit charges.
The suit says it is looking to end the discriminatory practices and is also seeking punitive damages – which would likely equal millions of dollars.
The plaintiffs are headed by Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn. The rest of the 24 players suing are listed in alphabetical order, a sign the four veteran players are leading the charge.
“We feel a responsibility not only to stand up for what we know we deserve as athletes, but also for what we know is right — on behalf of our teammates, future teammates, fellow women athletes, and women all around the world,” Rapinoe said.
The United States National Soccer Team Players Association, which is the organization that represents the men's national team, also weighed in, backing the USWNT in their lawsuit and hunt for equal pay.
"The United States National Soccer Team Players Association fully supports the efforts of the US Women's National Team Players to achieve equal pay," the organization said in a statement. "Specifically, we are committed to the concept of a revenue-sharing model to address the US Soccer Federation's 'market realities' and find a way towards fair compensation.
"An equal division of revenue attributable to the MNT and WNT programs is our primary pursuit as we engage with the US Soccer Federation in collective bargaining. Our collective bargaining agreement expired at the end of 2018 and we have already raised an equal division of attributable revenue.
"We wait on US Soccer to respond to both players associations with a way to move forward with fair and equal compensation for all US soccer players."
The players are seeking the court's recognition of their legal rights under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Full text of the lawsuit is available HERE.