"They're just putting a ceiling on us"

Co-captains of the U.S. Women's National team tell 60 Minutes why they're fighting for equal pay -- and why their success isn't an "aberration"

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is a team of numbers. They’ve won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals, and they’re ranked first in the world.

But when it comes to their salaries, they say the numbers just aren’t adding up, especially compared with the U.S. men’s team.  

This week, correspondent Norah O’Donnell reports on the fight some team members have waged against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation. Earlier this year, they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint accuses U.S. soccer of violating the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, which protects employees against discrimination based on sex. The commission is expected to rule sometime in the next few months.

U.S. team captain Carli Lloyd, the 2015 recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year award, is part of the suit. She says she’s noticed a difference in her teammates since she joined in 2005. Eleven years ago, she says, her teammates were too afraid to say anything about the pay differential. Now they’re standing united.

“You don’t want to go against the grain,” she tells Norah O’Donnell in the clip above. “You don’t think that there’s anything they need to fight for because…it’s an honor to be a part of this team. It’s an honor to play for your country.

“But at the same time, we have to evolve, and we have to make it better than when we came into this sport,” she says.

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President Obama honors the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team at the White House after their World Cup win

CBS News

Lloyd’s three goals in the 2015 World Cup sealed a huge win against Japan. That game remains the highest-rated soccer match in American history, including games played by the U.S. men.

An estimated 30 million people watched the final on TV in the U.S. – more than every game of the NBA Finals last year, Sunday Night Football last year, primetime coverage of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, and every primetime show during the 2014-2015 broadcast season. And according to U.S. Soccer’s own projections for this year, the women are expected to earn more money than the men’s team in ticket sales.

Despite this, co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn says U.S. Soccer doesn’t bank on her team’s success.

“We can get that kind of viewership,” Sauerbrunn says in the clip above. “We are capable of doing that, so why wouldn’t you invest in a team that’s capable of capturing so many hearts around America? And you talk to U.S. Soccer, and they’ll say, ‘That was one time. You saw that. That happened one time. It’s an aberration.”

But Sauerbrunn says her team’s success was no fluke.  

“They’re just putting a ceiling on us,” she says, “saying it’s happening one time when we know that we can do so much more if we’re given the resources.”

The president of U.S. soccer declined an interview with 60 Minutes. The Federation issued a statement saying, “U.S. Soccer has been the world leader in developing and advocating for women’s soccer globally for decades. We are actively working to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the USWNT. As part of that process, we believe a variety of factors need to be considered when determining total compensation for our National Team players.”