The U.S. women's national soccer team (USWNT) and governing body U.S. Soccer said on Tuesday they have agreed to resolve a years-long dispute over equal pay on what the players described as a landmark day for the sport.
The settlement will see $22 million distributed in a manner proposed by the players and approved by a district court.
U.S. Soccer also committed to providing an equal rate of pay going forward for the women's and men's national teams in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup.
"Getting to this day has not been easy," U.S. Soccer and the USWNT said in a joint statement. "The U.S. Women's National Team players have achieved unprecedented success while working to achieve equal pay for themselves and future athletes.
"Today, we recognize the legacy of the past USWNT leaders who helped to make this day possible, as well as all of the women and girls who will follow."
An additional $2 million will be put in a fund to benefit players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women's and girls' soccer.
U.S. President Joe Biden praised what he called an "overdue victory" in the fight for equal pay.
"I'm proud of the @USWNT for never giving up - on and off the field," he tweeted.
"Now, let's close the pay gap in every industry."
The agreement ended a dispute dating back to 2016 when some players filed a federal wage discrimination complaint claiming they were paid less than male players even though they generate more income for the United States Soccer Federation.
The USWNT sued U.S. soccer's governing body in 2019 seeking $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act over allegations of gender discrimination in compensation and nearly every other aspect of their playing conditions.
Months later they won the World Cup for the fourth time as fans chanted "equal pay" during the final.
U.S. Soccer argued the women's team had received more compensation than the men's team over the last decade.
In May 2020, a United States District Court judge for the Central District of California threw out the players' claims for equal pay but allowed their claims about playing conditions to go forward.
The players reached a settlement on the conditions part of the lawsuit and had appealed against the wage decision portion.
USWNT striker Megan Rapinoe, speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" with fellow player Alex Morgan and U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, said people will look back on this day as the moment U.S. Soccer changed for the better.
"We can't go back and undo the injustices that we've faced," said Rapinoe, who was named the world's top female soccer player of 2019 and has been at the forefront of the USWNT's fight for gender pay equality.
"The only justice coming out of this is that we know that something like this is never going to happen again and we can move forward in making soccer the best sport that we possibly can in this country and setting up the next generation so much better than we ever had it."
Morgan called the agreement a win for everyone involved.
"This is just such a monumental step forward in feeling valued, feeling respected, and just mending our relationship with U.S. Soccer," said Morgan.
"I not only see this as a win for our team or women's sports but women in general."
Parlow Cone called the agreement a "great transition moment" while the women's players' union (USWNTPA) said it was an important step in "righting the many wrongs of the past".
"The USWNTPA expects the Federation to come to the table, as they have agreed in the litigation settlement, fully committed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will, finally, provide for equal pay for the women’s national team players," it said in a statement.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, Frank Pingue in Toronto and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)