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Feb. 4, 2016 — How to derail a money train

The U.S. women’s national soccer team has always had an adversarial relationship with its national governing body. The team has, on occasion, had to take direct job actions to get U.S. Soccer in order to increase wages and provide child care for members who are raising children. There was a time when the U.S. women’s team threatened to not show up for a minor competition in the mid-2000s, then the U.S. men almost held a strike before a World Cup Qualifier in 2005.

Your current FIFA world champions are, once again, in a bit of an imbroglio just a week before qualification for the Olympics. It’s not known exactly what the sticking point is in terms of demands, but what is known is that U.S. Soccer has filed a lawsuit against the union representing the women’s national team.

The exact sticking points of the current negotiations over the national team’s working conditions are not known, but can be extrapolated from the headlines over the last couple of years.

The U.S. women, even though they often draw larger crowds than the men in the same places, do not get certain benefits like a temporary grass floor for the match in locations where the default is artificial grass.

In addition, there are conditions for the coverage of national-team player salaries in the NWSL that could use adjustments, and the pay from the federation for winning the World Cup is unequal to the men’s national team — albeit less unequal than FIFA’s payouts.

There’s a lot more detail on this in The Goalkeeper, to which I’ll direct you for further perusal. But what is known is that the U.S. women now have more leverage now than it will have later in the year — even if the team does win its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal.

A ruling on this suit could affect everything from the league structure of the NWSL to the U.S. team that trots onto the field in Texas next week for Olympic qualifying, to the legacies of the players who won the World Cup less than a year ago.

Thing is, U.S. Soccer didn’t cover itself in glory by bringing the lawsuit now. Nor did it benefit the game by holding to a memorandum of understanding rather than a signed contract.

If U.S. Soccer doesn’t come to the table — and quickly — this can’t end well.

Of course, this isn’t the only fight for equality in women’s sports — even today. More on that tomorrow.

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