USWNT players irked by timing of U.S. Soccer president's letter on pay lawsuit

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HARRISON, N.J. -- The United States women's national team found a late answer to beat Spain 1-0 in front of an announced sellout crowd at Red Bull Arena on International Women's Day. But responding after the game to a letter released the previous night by U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, team leaders made clear they are ready to continue a legal standoff with the federation that increasingly appears headed to trial in May.

Cordeiro's letter to members of U.S. Soccer, which he said was to update them on the status of the lawsuit, was released on the one-year anniversary of the lawsuit filed by 28 members of the national player pool. U.S. Soccer said Cordeiro was asked for an update by members at the federation's recent Annual General Meeting.

But the letter was also released less than 24 hours before kickoff between the U.S. and Spain and on the eve of International Women's Day, timing which irked forward Megan Rapinoe.

"The timing of it, on the eve of not only a game in this tournament but on the eve of International Women's Day," Rapinoe began afterward. "If that's how you want to celebrate International Women's Day and show support for not only your players but potentially future players and girls all over the place, that's one way to do it. Once again, it's disappointing to see that stance from the federation, but personally from Carlos. I think it shows the distance between us on some issues. And as our statement [in response to the letter] said, not all of it was true."

Among the statements in the letter, Cordeiro alleged that the federation had offered the union representing the women's team a renegotiated pay structure that offered equality with the men's national team for games under U.S. Soccer control. He also alleged players had since refused to negotiate unless the federation committed to make up the prize money gap between men and women for future World Cups, prize money that is determined by FIFA.

While Cordeiro's letter referenced offers made to the United States Women's National Team Players Association, which handles the collective bargaining agreement between players and the federation, the USWNTPA is not a party to the lawsuit. And it confirmed as much in a statement on Tuesday, saying "this class action litigation can only be resolved through a trial verdict or a class action settlement approved by the court and not through labor-management bargaining."

A response to the letter Saturday night from Molly Levinson, spokesperson for the players, said the offer of equal pay did not cover important categories of games including World Cups and was tied to terms of a since-expired CBA negotiated by the men in 2011 (represented by its own union, the men's team is currently without a CBA). The response from the players also said the offer did not address issues of equal workplace conditions.

Levinson's response also said the plaintiffs looked forward to the trial slated to begin May 5. Becky Sauerbrunn, the newly named president of the USWNTPA and one of the class representatives in the lawsuit, echoed the commitment to see the process through.

"Obviously we'd like to be able to concentrate on soccer stuff when we're at one of our major domestic tournaments," Sauerbrunn said after Sunday's game. "But luckily we've got great lawyers in our corner, we've got great spokespeople. And they kind of had it planned. And we wanted the response to be strong, and we wanted the facts to be out there and it to be truthful. So they don't get to shape the narrative. We're going to bounce right back at them if they come with stuff like that."

U.S. Soccer did not comment on the frustrations expressed by players.