U.S. Soccer Sues Its World Cup Champions

February 4, 2016

Last night, as originally reported by Andrew Das of The New York Times, the United States Soccer Federation sued the Women’s National Team Players Association – the union that represents the national team players.

The root of the issue is the current labor agreement between the two parties and whether or not the union is required to abide by the terms of the deal until the end of the calendar year, including its agreement not to go on strike.

With this year’s National Women’s Soccer League about to kick off and the Olympic games ahead this summer, U.S. Soccer is trying to avoid a potentially disastrous strike and get the U.S. District Court in Chicago to issue a summary judgement that the players must abide by their current agreement through this December (a great recap in laymen’s terms can be found here).

But beyond the legal disagreements, the lawsuit also raised a number of interesting questions and created an entire sub-tier of controversies. Here they are:

1) The federation filed the suit on February 3, which also happens to be National Girls and Women in Sports Day – irony abounds.

2) The court filing listed the e-mails of several key players (they have since been redacted), including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christie Rampone and the recently-retired Abby Wambach. Needless to say, the players weren’t happy about it.

3) The players’ current contract contains an interesting list of activities the players are forbidden from participating in, including: professional boxing, professional wrestling, motorcycling, moped-riding, auto racing, sky-diving and hang gliding.

4) The contract contains provisions for maternity leave, stating, “While the Player is on maternity leave she will receive 50% of her salary.” Currently, two subsidized players – Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez – are on maternity leave.

5) Players with children receive a $25 per diem for childcare while on national team duty. As someone who pays an inordinate amount of their income on childcare, that seems like a ridiculously low amount.

6) Travel as a national team player isn’t as glorious as some would expect: “US Soccer will provide premium economy/economy plus seats when available.” But, at least all the animals are equal, “In no event will a US Soccer staff member (other than the Head Coach) receive a more premium seat than a Player on the same flight.”

7) While the contract does somewhat limit a coach’s options in selecting a roster, it’s not impossible to make changes: “Severance – If US Soccer chooses to terminate a Player, she will receive three month’s severance pay.”

8) Finally, the question of Stephanie McCaffrey. After Sam Mewis and Jaelene Hinkle received subsidized status for the league, many (myself included) wondered when McCaffrey could expect to earn it, especially after she made the Olympic qualifying roster. Well, the documents released last night offer some clue in that regard.

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