For U.S. Women, a Late Goal and a Fight That Never Ends

HARRISON, N.J. — One purpose separated the United States ladies’s soccer workforce and Spain on Sunday. The distance between the American gamers and the United States Soccer Federation, nonetheless, apparently stays incalculable.

On the sector, after all, neither the workforce nor the federation that employs it might dispute that their objectives proceed to align properly. Sunday’s victory towards Spain — on a header by midfielder Julie Ertz within the 87th minute — ran the workforce’s unbeaten streak to 30 video games, and its file underneath Coach Vlatko Andonovski to a good 9-Zero.

The United States has not misplaced a sport in any respect in 14 months — a defeat to France in January 2019 that itself ended a 28-game unbeaten run — and because it shortly warms to Andonovski’s strategies, ways and lineup preferences, the workforce is a heavy favourite to regain its Olympic title in Tokyo this summer season. It has scored 28 objectives this yr. It has but to permit a single one.

But to midfielder Megan Rapinoe, Sunday’s shut win, one wherein the workforce needed to pry open a tight protection to provide its profitable purpose, might show extra priceless than the simple ones that got here earlier than it. “This was not a great performance by us; I’m sure we’ll have a lot of film to watch, and things we can work on,” Rapinoe stated. “But I think these performances are always better and more telling than if we go out and smash teams.”

World Cup payouts represent the largest gap, and the most extreme example, in the yearslong fight about equal pay for men and women in soccer. In the most recent comparison, U.S. Soccer received $4 million for winning the Women’s World Cup in France last summer, just one year after France took home $38 million for lifting the men’s trophy in Russia.

Wielding those figures as a powerful public relations cudgel, lawyers for the women’s team have for years used the yawning gap in their calculations to create the widest possible disparity between what U.S. Soccer pays its men’s and women’s teams.

But the World Cup payouts are determined by FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, not U.S. Soccer, Cordeiro noted in his letter. And equalizing them every four years because FIFA will not, he said, would be a significant blow to the federation’s finances, significantly limiting the funding available for programs supporting everything from youth development to coaching and referee education.

“There is indeed a significant difference in World Cup prize money awarded by FIFA to the men’s and women’s championship teams,” Cordeiro acknowledged in the letter. “However, it is not reasonable or fiscally sound for U.S. Soccer to make up the gap.”

Cordeiro’s letter, made public a day before the women’s team was scheduled to face Spain in a tournament organized by U.S. Soccer, infuriated the players, who acidly dismissed the points in it through a statement that included words like “falsehoods,” “misleading” and “dishonest.”

“If that’s how you want to celebrate International Women’s Day and show support for not only your players but for potentially future players and girls all over the place,” Rapinoe said, “that’s one way to do it.”

The players also accused Cordeiro of repeatedly trying to arrange meetings with the team outside the presence of the athletes’ lawyers.

Cordeiro defended his efforts at personal mediation on Sunday, saying he was merely trying to restart a dialogue that has gone nowhere for months. “I’m trying to have an amicable sit-down that will end in a resolution,” he said.

But his letter, the latest salvo in a public relations battle between the team and the federation that has played out largely in court filings and news releases, also served to emphasize just how far apart the sides remain two months before they are scheduled to meet in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles for the start of a high-stakes trial.

U.S. Soccer is perhaps the world’s biggest and most enduring sponsor of women’s soccer, and its top officials continue to bristle at even the suggestion that it underpays its women’s players or denies them even a bit of the support they require to succeed. It provided full-time salaries for the players long before other countries, for example, and even paid World Cup bonuses for more than a decade when FIFA did not. (World Cup bonuses for all women’s teams were introduced at the 2007 tournament; by then, the United States had played in the event four times, and had won it twice.)

To the women, though, U.S. Soccer’s claims that past injustices cannot be remedied without wrecking the organization’s balance sheet serve as a continuing indictment of budgets that, in their view, only perpetuate the discrimination that led them to sue.

“People can’t build financial models that diminish women,” Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, said.

Asked what it would take to avoid a trial now, Rapinoe replied: “An actual offer for equal pay, and some considerable damages as well. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that right now.”

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