Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

U.S. Women's Soccer Settles Equal-Pay Lawsuit: A Timeline Although U.S. women's soccer star Alex Morgan called the settlement a "proud moment" for U.S. women's soccer, the fight is far from over on an international scale.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

The six-year battle over equal pay between the U.S. women's soccer team and the U.S. Soccer Federation came to a close on Tuesday morning with a settlement that includes a $24 million payout and a promise from the national governing body to equalize pay between the women's and men's national teams.

The difference in compensation for men's and women's soccer has historically been wide. In 2019, FIFA, the nonprofit organization that exists to govern soccer and develop it around the world, awarded $30 million to the 24 teams at the women's World Cup, including $4 million to the U.S. after it won its second straight title. The payouts paled in comparison to those made to the men's division: $400 million in prize money for the 32 teams at the 2018 men's World Cup and $38 million to the champion, France. Moreover, the U.S. women's team has won four FIFA Women's World Cup titles since the competition's founding in 1991, while the U.S. men's team hasn't come close to a win since it took third in 1930.

Related: How the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Has Maintained Its Dominance

An overview of the fight for equal pay in U.S. women's soccer

The first step towards today's settlement was taken back in 2016 when U.S. women's soccer stars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd filed Equal Pay Act and Title VII wage discrimination claims with Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). Both Solo and Lloyd have since retired from the sport.

By summer 2018, more than two years after the filing, the EEOC had yet to issue a ruling. On August 24 of that year, Solo filed a suit against the USSF in federal court, challenging U.S. Soccer's violation of the Equal Pay Act and wage discrimination in the Northern District of California. On December 21, 2018, the Federation issued its response, arguing that Solo's complaint was insufficient to state an Equal Pay Act violation and that she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Solo then filed a response to the Federation's motion to dismiss on January 1, 2019.

In March 2019, just three months before the start of the World Cup, 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit, alleging years of continuous institutionalized gender discrimination against the players in their compensation and working conditions. The lawsuit captured the country's attention, and following the U.S. women's team's 2019 World Cup win in Paris, the stadium was filled with chants of "Equal Pay!"

Related: Soccer Legend Abby Wambach: 'Right Now Our World Needs More Women Leading'

The USWNT's equal pay lawsuit was dismissed in May 2020 when the judge accepted U.S. Soccer's argument that the women had actually been paid more in total compensation than men's team players. But the USWNT's appeal in July 2021 argued that was only the case because the women outperformed the men — yet still received smaller performance bonuses.

In its final brief filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2021, the USWNT cited an appeal granted earlier that month in another case of gender-based wage discrimination as a basis for the judge's error in dismissal.

Now, the settlement relies on the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement for USWNT and U.S. Soccer.

What the win means for U.S. women's soccer now and in the future

U.S. Soccer will pay $22 million to the players in the case and put another $2 million into an account to "benefit USWNT players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women's and girls' soccer," according to the settlement terms. Players can apply for up to $50,000 from the fund.

Additionally, the years-long legal fight led to the resignation of U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro in March 2020 after the exposure of a legal filing that included sexist language comparing women's and men's players. Former American midfielder Cindy Parlow Cone was appointed in his place and became the first female president in the federation's history.

Although Alex Morgan called the settlement a "proud moment" for U.S. women's soccer on NBC's Today show, the fight is far from over on an international scale. "U.S. Soccer has agreed to equalize the prize money moving forward, obviously we call on FIFA to truly equalize that for men's and women's tournaments," she said. "That's really what we set out to do. Equalize on all fronts."

Related: 5 Ways Working in Private Equity Is Like Playing Soccer

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

'Creators Left So Much Money on the Table': Kickstarter's CEO Reveals the Story Behind the Company's Biggest Changes in 15 Years

In an interview with Entrepreneur, Kickstarter CEO Everette Taylor explains the decision-making behind the changes, how he approaches leading Kickstarter, and his advice for future CEOs.


Is Consumer Services a Good Career Path for 2024? Here's the Verdict

Consumer services is a broad field with a variety of benefits and drawbacks. Here's what you should consider before choosing it as a career path.

Business Ideas

87 Service Business Ideas to Start Today

Get started in this growing industry, with options that range from IT consulting to childcare.

Business Models

How to Become an AI-Centric Business (and Why It's Crucial for Long-Term Success)

Learn the essential steps to integrate AI at the core of your operations and stay competitive in an ever-evolving landscape.