US Soccer pushes to dismiss equal pay complaint from female players

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Since five members of the U.S. women's soccer team filed a complaint earlier this year alleging pay discrimination, the U.S. Soccer Federation has disputed their claims in media interviews and statements.

On Tuesday, the governing body issued its most comprehensive rebuke in a 20-page letter filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for investigating the players' allegations.

The letter insists that those claims are "false," and that members of the women's team not only receive equitable pay, but in some cases are paid more than the top-earning members of the men's team.

Composed by the federation's legal firm in the matter, Latham & Watkins LLP, the letter reiterates support for the women's team as it attacks their evidence of a pay gap.

"The suggestion that U.S. Soccer has been anything other than strongly supportive of the [women's national team] is deeply disappointing and inaccurate," the letter reads.

Pay disparities, according to the federation, are not the result of gender bias, but a trio of factors: higher revenue produced by the men's team; the decision made by the women's team to choose a salary and benefits instead of a bonus structure; and the timing of collective bargaining agreements negotiated by each team separately.

The women's team also has a "pay equity" clause in its contract, which is meant to create parity between the teams, their compensation and their respective share of game revenue.

The federation also alleges that, from 2012 to 2015, 14 of the highest-earning soccer players on both rosters were women. They earned an average of $695,269 during that four-year period, or 2.2% less than the average male U.S. soccer player in that same group. Among the 50-highest earning players, 23 were women who earned nearly more than $35,000 than the average male player in the same cohort.

Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer representing the women, criticized the federation's response in a statement to Mashable.

"The USSF letter is shameful. It compares men who play many fewer games than the women over the same period of time and then claims the discrimination is not that great," Kessler said. "It's time for the USSF to end its illegal and demeaning treatment of these women."

The different competition schedules, compensation structures and bargaining agreements between the two teams makes it difficult for the casual sports fan to evaluate and compare potential disparities.

In their EEOC complaint, for example, members of the women's team alleged making four times less than the men's team. They pointed to an annual $72,000 salary and $1,350 bonus for each victory, contrasting that with the potential for men to make a minimum of $100,000 annually, even while losing.

SEE ALSO: U.S. Soccer star Carli Lloyd takes on women's wage gap in New York Times op-ed

The federation did argue that disparities between per diem expenses were likely temporary; the amounts were previously identical before the men's team negotiated a new contract.

Beyond disputing the discrimination claims, the federation devoted several passages of the letter to its financial and professional support of the women's team and their fledgling professional league.

At times the letter also seems to imply that the women's team is lucky, or should be grateful for their treatment:

The letter is the latest development in increasingly contentious contract negotiations between the female players and U.S. Soccer. The team is scheduled to compete in this summer's Olympics for its fifth gold medal, but have indicated they are prepared to strike before the games.

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US Soccer pushes to dismiss equal pay complaint from female players
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Alex Morgan #13, Lauren Holiday #12, Abby Wambach #20 and Whitney Engen #6 of the United States of America hold the World Cup Trophy after their 5-2 win over Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
The United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
United States' Becky Sauerbrunn kisses the trophy as Lauren Holiday, left, and Kelley O'Hara, right, look on after the U.S. beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy as confetti falls after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
United States' Carli Lloyd kneels on the pitch as Japan's Rumi Utsugi, left, walks off after the U.S. beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Abby Wambach #20 of the United States of America celebrates as time expires in their 5-2 win over Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
From left, United States' Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Holiday, and Carli Lloyd celebrate after Lloyd scored her second goal of the match against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States with the ball against Homare Sawa #10 of Japan in the first half in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States scores her second goal in the first half against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Japan's Saki Kumagai (L) and USA's Carli Lloyd vie for the ball during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final between the USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan's goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori fails to stop a goal during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
United States' Carli Lloyd, right, celebrates with goalkeeper Hope Solo (1) and Megan Rapinoe, top, after Lloyd scored her third goal against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States celebrates with teammates after scoring her second goal against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
United States' Carli Lloyd, right, celebrates with teammates after Lloyd scored her third goal against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
United States fans with painted faces cheer in the stands before the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship between the U.S. and Japan in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A young fan waves a Japanese flag before the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship between the United States and Japan in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Risa Suzuki, left, of Japan, and Kerrry Haughton, of New York, smile after posing for photographers outside BC Place stadium before the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship between the United States and Japan later in the day, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
USA fans cheer before the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final between the USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden cheers on Team USA during the final football match between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ANDY CLARK (Photo credit should read ANDY CLARK/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan's midfielder Aya Miyama kicks the ball during the final football match between USA and Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
USA players celebrate a goal during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final between the USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States scores her second goal in the first half against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
USA midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) is congratuled by after scoring a goal during the final football match between USA and Japan during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori reacts after allowing in a fourth USA goal during the final football match between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ANDY CLARK (Photo credit should read ANDY CLARK/AFP/Getty Images)
United States' Tobin Heath, center, celebrates with Morgan Brian, left, after Heath scored a goal against Japan during the second half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Japanese football supporters react following a goal by the US as they attend a public screening in Tokyo on July 6, 2015, of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final between Japan and USA being played in Vancouver, British Columbia. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori #18 of Japan is unable to save a shot by Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States as Lloyd scores in the first half in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
USA's Becky Sauerbrunn (R) and Japan's Asuna Tanaka head the ball during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final between the USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Goalkeeper Hope Solo #1 of the United States clears the ball in the first half against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Japan's forward Yuki Ogimi (R) vies with USA defender Julie Johnston before scoring a goal during the final football match between USA and Japan during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Aya Miyama #8 and Mizuho Sakaguchi #6 of Japan celebrate a USA own goal in the second half in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori #18 of Japan is unable to save a shot by Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States as Lloyd scores her second goal in the first half in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Lauren Holiday #12 and Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States celebrate with teammates after Lloyd scores her second goal against Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
USA supporters cheer their team during the final football match between USA and Japan at BC Place Stadium during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Vancouver on July 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ANDY CLARK (Photo credit should read ANDY CLARK/AFP/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: Sasha Obama (L) watches the United States take on Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Japanese soccer fans watch a live broadcast of the Woman's World Cup soccer final match between Japan and the United States at a public viewing venue in Tokyo, Monday, July 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Fans watching on an outdoor screen from the National Harbor, Md., celebrate after the United States' scored their third goal against Japan during the first half of the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Krista McMahan, of St. Louis, wears soccer ball contact lenses as she cheers before the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship final between the United States and Japan in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Fans react as they watch Carli Lloyd score for the USA during play against Japan in the Women's World Cup title match on television Sunday, July 5, 2015, in Marlton, N.J. Lloyd scored three goals in the first half as the United States has taken a 4-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of the Women's World Cup final. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Keegan Bilboa, 6, of Springfield, Missouri, sits atop shoulders outside BC Place stadium before the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship between the United States and Japan later in the day, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
VANCOUVER, BC - JULY 05: A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer brings out the World Cup Trophy before the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final between the United States and Japan at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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