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U.S. Soccer Federation announces men's and women's national teams will be offered the same contract

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KASHIMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Megan Rapinoe #15 of Team United States celebrates after scoring their side's second goal during the Women's Bronze Medal match between United States and Australia on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kashima Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Kashima, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
Atsushi Tomura | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

On Tuesday, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced that it will offer the respective players' unions for the men's and women's national teams the same contract proposal.

The news comes after generations of U.S. Women's National Team players have spoken out about unequal treatment from the USSF and more recently, a string of highly publicized legal proceedings

"U.S. Soccer firmly believes that the best path forward for all involved, and for the future of the sport in the United States, is a single pay structure for both senior national teams," reads a statement from the Federation, which did not release the full details of the contracts. 

As of Wednesday morning, the men's and women's players' associations have not yet publicly commented on the offered contracts. CNBC Make It reached out for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

If the organizations choose to continue to negotiate separately — as other international soccer programs do — USSF shared that they will invite the women's players association to sit in on the contract negotiations with the men's association "in the interest of full transparency."

The Federation also claims it is dedicated to "finding a way to equalize FIFA World Cup prize money between the USMNT and the USWNT." During the 2018 FIFA Men's World Cup in Russia, 32 teams competed for $400 million in prize money. The U.S. men's team failed to qualify for the tournament but the champions, France, took home $38 million. During the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France, 24 teams competed for $30 million and the U.S. took home $4 million as the champions.

In 2016, five U.S. women's players filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and in 2019, 28 members of the USWNT filed a lawsuit against the USSF for gender discrimination and unequal pay.

In that lawsuit, the players claimed that if the men's and women's teams won each of the 20 non-tournament games they are contractually required to play, women's team players would earn a maximum of $99,000 ($4,950 per game), while men's team players would earn $263,320 ($13,166 per game).

Neil Buethe, chief communications officer for the USSF, contests this claim saying it "leaves out the USWNT players' guaranteed salary and is based on out-of-date numbers, not from the current CBA which has been in effect since April 2017. Since the current CBA was signed four years ago, U.S. Soccer pays our WNT players $100,000 salary to play for the national team, up to $99,000 to play in NWSL, and game bonuses for each match."

The two sides entered mediation over the suit, but conversations fell apart. Though the suit's equal pay claims were thrown out by Federal Judge R. Gary Klausner in 2020, the women appealed the decision in 2021.

Earlier in 2021, a partial deal on working conditions was reached, providing the women with charter flights, hotel accommodations, venue selection and professional staff support equitable to that of the men's national team.

"I don't think a really public trial is in [the USSF's] best interest [and] hopefully not ours," Megan Rapinoe, former USWNT captain, told CNBC Make It in 2019. "It's gonna take a lot of time and energy on everyone's part to go through a whole public trial."

When asked how women can best negotiate for a raise themselves, Rapinoe provided simple advice: "Do not back down," she said. "You're probably going against your employer or your boss and it can be very daunting, but believe in yourself and believe in what you're doing and just don't back down."

This article has been updated to include further statement from USSF.

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