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Women's national soccer team players sue U.S. Soccer for equal pay

All 28 players of the U.S. women's national soccer team have filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). The suit was filed under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act on Friday, International Women's Day. It alleges gender-based discrimination.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles three months before the current World Cup champions will defend their title.   

In the suit, the players allege they have been subject to ongoing gender discrimination. The women site that they are paid unequally to their male counterparts, despite having the same job responsibilities, and they are seeking equal pay. They are also seeking damages, including back pay. 

"Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that," forward Alex Morgan said in a statement. "We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender." 

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Tobin Heath, Mallory Pugh, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan all joined the rest of their team mates in joining the gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. AP

While the whole team joined the suit, the U.S. Women's National Team Players Association was not party to it. However, the players association said it "supports the plaintiffs' goal of eliminating gender-based discrimination by the USSF."

In an email to CBS News, the USSF said it does not comment on matters of pending litigation.

In the past, the USSF has said much of the disparity in pay between the men's and women's teams was a result of labor agreements, The Associated Press reported.

This is not the first time the team has sought equality. In 2016, a group filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination by the federation. The new lawsuit effectively ends the EEOC complaint, according to the AP.

Team members spoke to CBS News "60 Minutes" in 2016, when their legal fight for equality first began. According to U.S. Soccer's projections for that year, the women were expected to earn more money than the men's team in ticket sales. Despite that, co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn told Norah O'Donnell, U.S. Soccer still didn't bank on her team's success.

"We can get that kind of viewership," Sauerbrunn said in 2016. "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."

"They're just putting a ceiling on us," she said. "Saying it's happening one time when we know that we can do so much more if we're given the resources."

The team has bargained for equal pay during their contract negotiations, striking an agreement in 2017 that runs through 2021. They received raises in base pay, bonuses and better provisions for travel and accommodations. The negotiations also gave layers some control over some licensing and marketing rights.

The players union responded to Friday's lawsuit. "This lawsuit is an effort by the plaintiffs to address those serious issues through the exercise of their individual rights," the union said, the AP reported. "For its part, the USWNTPA will continue to seek improvements in pay and working conditions through the labor-management and collective bargaining processes."

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