In a historic accomplishment, the U.S. Soccer Federation, the U.S. Women’s National Team (“USWNT”), and the U.S. Men’s National Team (“USMNT”) have come together to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement that will guarantee equal pay. The landmark labor agreement will include revised pay structures promising the same pay and prize money, including at World Cups, for the players representing the United States men’s and women’s national teams. Under the terms of the agreement, World Cup Prize money will be pooled between the men's and women’s teams and split equally among all players — a first in the soccer federation world, as reported by NBC News.
The agreement came about as a result of an EEOC complaint filed in 2016 by USWNT players Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, followed by a lawsuit filed by 28 members of the USWNT in March 2019, citing years of ongoing institutionalized gender discrimination against the women players in their compensation and working conditions. After the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California rejected the equal pay portion of the lawsuit, the players appealed to the Ninth Circuit. There, Williams & Connolly partner Mark Levinstein, along with a team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, filed an amicus brief on behalf of the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association (“USNSTPA”), the labor organization for the current members of the USMNT and a member organization for alumni members of the Men’s National Team, in support of the USWNT’s suit. In February 2022, the lawsuit was settled on terms favorable to the USWNT players, contingent on the federation negotiating labor contracts that equalized pay and bonuses between the women’s and men’s teams.
“No other country has ever done this,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone told the New York Times of the deal to equalize World Cup payments. “I think everyone should be really proud of what we’ve accomplished here. It really, truly is historic.”
Mark Levinstein has served as Counsel and the Acting Executive Director to the USNSTPA for 25 years. His practice focuses on Sports Law, which includes representation of businesses and individuals in litigation, arbitration, negotiation, and business planning. In addition to athletes, Mark has represented players associations, sports teams, owners and leagues, national governing bodies, sponsors, licensees, universities, front office personnel, coaches, scouts, agents, management companies and event producers. His sports practice involves professional, Olympic, collegiate and amateur sports.