USWNT, U.S. Soccer tentatively agree to mediation in discrimination lawsuit

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Megan Rapinoe #15 of USA (center) and her teammates are standing for the national anthem during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group F match between USA and Chile at Parc des Princes on June 16, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/Getty Images)

REIMS, France — In an effort to avoid the courtroom, the United States women’s national team and the U.S. Soccer Federation tentatively agreed Friday to mediation to resolve a discrimination lawsuit filed by the players earlier this year, a U.S. Soccer spokesman confirmed Yahoo Sports.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that the sides would attempt to resolve their differences via mediation, which would take place following the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. The development represents an apparent shift in strategy by the players’ representatives, who had stated their intention to bring the suit, which was filed in March in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, to trial. The players had previously rejected offers to have a third party try to settle the suit before the two sides went to court, a person with knowledge of the discussions told Yahoo Sports.

In the complaint, 28 players accused the federation of “institutionalized gender discrimination” that impacts their travel, training, medical treatment, and coaching. The defending world champion USWNT beat Sweden on Thursday in its final first round match at France 2019. The Americans will play Spain here on Monday in the round of 16.

The USSF bristled at the timing of the news. “While we welcome the opportunity to mediate, we are disappointed the plaintiffs’ counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women’s World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team’s focus on the tournament and success on the field,” federation spokesman Neil Buethe said in an email. “We look forward to everyone returning their focus to the efforts on the field as we aim to win another title.”

Five U.S. players sued U.S. Soccer in 2016 claiming similar gender-based discrimination. The USWNT and the federation agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement the following year.

U.S. Soccer formally responded to the latest suit in May, arguing that the men’s and women’s national teams “are physically and functionally separate organizations that perform services for U.S. Soccer in physically separate spaces and compete in different competitions, venues and countries at different times; have different coaches, staff and leadership; have separate collective bargaining agreements; and have separate budgets that take into account the different revenue that the teams generate.”

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