The U.S. women’s national soccer team continued to fight on and off the pitch this week.
Two days after the reigning World Cup champions suffered a deflating 3-0 loss to Sweden, the players filed an appeal Friday to overturn a 2020 decision against their equal pay lawsuit. On Saturday, the team rebounded with a 6-1 victory over New Zealand, breathing new life into the Americans’ Olympic gold medal pursuit in Tokyo.
With two goals in the first half—a lead kicked off by Rose Lavelle who scored her first Olympic goal in the 10th minute—and four goals in the last 45 minutes of play, the U.S. dominated the match against New Zealand on Saturday in Saitama, Japan.
The win was much needed after the U.S. women’s soccer team was outplayed by Sweden—the same squad that knocked out the Americans in the quarterfinals of the Rio Games—during its opening match on Wednesday. In the process, the Swedes snapped Team USA’s 44-match unbeaten streak.
“We got our a**** kicked, didn’t we. Just a little tight, just a little nervous,” forward Megan Rapinoe told NPR after the game. “We had a few chances that we could have taken better that would have shifted the game quite a bit.”
The Americans, led by veteran U.S. women’s soccer team icons—including four-time Olympian Carli Lloyd—weren’t down for long. With eyes on becoming the first women’s team to ever take Olympic gold after winning the World Cup, while making history as advocates for pay equity, the U.S. bounced back in a big way.
On Friday, the 28 current and former U.S. players announced that their legal team had filed an appeal to overturn Judge Gary Klauser’s May 2020 decision, which ruled there was no basis to prove the players’ claims that the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) financially discriminated against the women based on their gender. Klauser said the women played more games and made more money than their male counterparts and had rejected a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) where they would have the same pay structure as the men’s team in favor of a different CBA, CNN reports.
In response, the players said they had not been offered the same CBA as the men’s team. They claimed Klauser’s ruling was “based on a flawed analysis of the team’s compensation, despite the abundant evidence of unequal pay,” according to a statement shared with CNN.
“If a woman has to work more than a man and be much more successful than him to earn about the same pay, that is decidedly not equal pay and it violates the law,” player spokesperson Molly Levinson told CNN. “And yet, that is exactly what the women players on the U.S. National team do—they play more games and achieve better results in order to be paid about the same amount as the men’s national team players per game. By any measure, that is not equal pay, and it violates federal law.”
The team’s victory on Saturday means the U.S. still has a shot at winning gold. The Americans are scheduled to face Australia on Tuesday in Kashima, which will conclude their Group G play. For reference, there are 12 nations divided into three groups (labeled E-G) of four teams each who will play these preliminary games in a classic round-robin style. The top two teams from each group will automatically advance to the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.