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U.S. Soccer's new leadership eyes equal pay settlement with the USWNT

Doug McIntyre
·4-min read
The World Cup-winning USWNT wore their jerseys inside out earlier this month to protest a sexist legal argument made by U.S. Soccer, but an equal pay settlement could be on the horizon. (Robin Alam/Getty)
The World Cup-winning USWNT wore their jerseys inside out earlier this month to protest a sexist legal argument made by U.S. Soccer, but an equal pay settlement could be on the horizon. (Robin Alam/Getty)

Both U.S. Soccer’s new president and new CEO are hoping to settle the equal pay lawsuit filed by members of the World Cup champion U.S. women’s national team before the case goes to trial in May.

“That’s one of our top priorities right now,” USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. The former USWNT midfielder, who played on the iconic 99ers squad, replaced Carlos Cordeiro earlier this month when Cordeiro resigned after the federation’s lawyers used sexist language in a court filing.

“I don’t think a trial is good for either party, or for soccer in this country or internationally,” Parlow Cone added. “Obviously our women’s team is the best team in the world, and I’m hopeful that we can find a resolution before this goes to trial.”

USWNT spokesperson Molly Levinson had a brief but pointed response.

“The solution is clear, simple and unequivocal,” she said. “Equal. Pay.”

Tuesday’s call marked Parlow Cone’s first availability to the national media since ascending from the role of vice president on March 12. It was scheduled after U.S. Soccer hired veteran sports executive Will Wilson as its chief executive on Monday. That position had been vacant since longtime CEO Dan Flynn stepped down in September. When it comes to reaching a settlement with the USWNT, Wilson and Parlow Cone appeared to be on the same page

“Finding a solution, Wilson said, “would be the best way to go forward.”

Still, no formal settlement meetings with the players have been scheduled yet. That’s partially down to the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to Parlow Cone.

“We’re hopeful that we can schedule one very soon,” she said. “It’s challenging right now with the backdrop of coronavirus. I’m a big believer in getting people in the same room and finding resolutions. In the meantime, we may have to settle with jumping on phone calls. I’m hopeful that will be the case in the coming weeks.”

Parlow Cone confirmed that during her 13-month tenure as U.S. Soccer’s VP, she sat on the organization’s three-member litigation committee. However, she said that she never saw the incendiary language contained in the filing before it went public and created an understandable backlash against the federation and its leadership, or lack thereof.

“We have hired an outside firm to do a review of our processes to see where that process broke down,” Parlow Cone said. “I think the comments and the language in the last filing not only hurt our relationship with our women’s national team, but it hurt women and girls in general,” she said. “And as a former national team player, they were personally hurtful to me.”

With the case long since lost in the court of public opinion, U.S. Soccer’s new stewards seem to understand the need to come to a quick resolution with members of its most successful program. Led by Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. women won their second consecutive World Cup, and fourth overall, last summer in France. But even a settlement wouldn’t undo the harm that has already been caused by the contentious legal standoff — something both executives acknowledged.

“Settling this dispute is only the first step,” Parlow Cone said. “The next step is a long process. I think a lot of damage has been done and we are going to have to rebuild that trust and rebuild relationships, and it’s not going to happen overnight.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort and time and energy from the U.S. Soccer side to rebuild that trust,” she continued. “Not only with our women’s national team players, but with our fans.”

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