It’s all very technical and confusing, so let’s get one thing straight: This isn’t as much about soccer as it is about labor unions. The U.S. women’s players are represented by a players’ association, which has a collective bargaining agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation. That agreement consists of two parts, an original collective bargaining agreement and a memo signed in March 2013 updating parts of that original agreement.
All of this is set to expire in December 2016, but according to the lawsuit, Richard Nichols, executive director of the players’ association, informed U.S. Soccer that the union would stop honoring the deal on Feb. 24 instead. U.S. Soccer also alleges that the union refused to agree not to strike before the end of the year. That would open up the possibility of a potential player strike during this summer’s Olympics as well as upcoming season of the expanded National Women’s Soccer League. The lawsuit, then, is U.S. Soccer’s attempt to settle the matter before it further escalates by asking a court to decide whether the collective bargaining agreement actually exists.
The lawsuit is an escalation of gradually worsening relations between U.S. Soccer and the world champion women’s team over gender inequality. Women’s players make significantly less money than their male counterparts, and are often forced to play on artificial turf instead of grass.