U.S. Soccer is facing a showdown that could become a public relations bloodbath. According to The New York Times, five members of the USWNT have filed a federal complaint charging U.S. Soccer with wage discrimination.
These aren't just any five players, either. The trailblazing group is made up of co-captain and 2015 World Cup hero Carli Lloyd; captain Becky Sauerbrunn; goal-scoring machine, model and FIFA 16 covergirl Alex Morgan; 2011 World Cup hero and LGBT activist Megan Rapinoe; and long-time goalkeeper, model and Dancing with the Stars participant Hope Solo.
The players' lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, claims the women's team is the driving economic force for U.S. Soccer, but that the female players are paid less than the men's side of the federation. The women argue that their team receives roughly 40 percent of the earnings of the men's team, despite the women's team being ranked No. 1 in the world and winning the 2015 World Cup.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Solo said in a statement. "We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the USMNT get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships."
The complaint was submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination at the federal level. The players request an investigation of U.S. Soccer by the EEOC.
"We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly," Lloyd said.
Although not all players are included in the complaint, the five at the forefront, arguably the team's biggest names since Abby Wambach's retirement, insist they are acting on behalf of the entire roster. "This is the strongest case of discrimination against women athletes in violation of law that I have ever seen," Kessler said.
U.S. Soccer now faces a public conflict with one of its greatest point of pride.
"While we have not seen this complaint and can't comment on the specifics of it, we are disappointed about this action," U.S. Soccer said in a statement. "We have been a world leader in women's soccer and are proud of the commitment we have made to building the women’s game in the United States over the past 30 years."
The top women's players rope in about $72,000 per year, but the men's bonus structure allows the top male players to accumulate a greater total. Women's players earn a $1,350 bonus for a win, while men's players can get $17,625.
The women claim that beyond this unfair pay structure -- both teams put in the same training effort -- the women's team is not earning equal compensation for their rising TV ratings and crowds.
In February, U.S. Soccer reported a $20 million increase in national team revenue in 2015. The women's team does not believe that is a fluke in their World Cup-winning year.
On Thursday morning, four of the players -- Rapinoe was absent -- discussed their claims on Today.