A potential boycott of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro by the United States women’s football team has moved a step closer after they asked a Federal judge to allow them to go on strike as the gender pay dispute continues.
According to NBC News, both the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and the United States’ Women's National Team Players Association (USWPA) appeared in front of US District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to plead their respective cases in Chicago.
The USSF are adamant their women’s side, the current Olympic and world champions, agreed three years ago that they would not refuse to play at any point.
The USPWA, however, claim the supposed agreement was not given in writing and was therefore not legally binding.
The sport’s governing body in the country filed a lawsuit in February to prevent the side from going on strike before Rio 2016 in a row over a collective bargaining agreement.
A group of five players then filed a Federal wage discrimination complaint against US Soccer in March.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, midfielders Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe and striker Alex Morgan launched the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following the release of the organisation’s financial figures, which showed the World Cup holders earned far less than their male counterparts.
The women’s team being far more successful than the men’s team and generating $20 million (£14 million/€18 million) more in revenue.
Male players also receive more than twice than the women when they are selected for the national team as they earn $68,750 (£48,000/€60,000) compared to $30,000 (£21,000/€26,000).
The women’s side, which beat Japan 5-2 in last year’s World Cup final, earned a total of $2 million (£1.4 million/€1.8 million), while the men were given $9 million for going out in the last 16 at Brazil 2014.
Vice-captain Sauerbrunn claimed in April that the team were "considering a boycott" of Rio 2016 if the equal pay dispute was not resolved.
The USSF have also now come under pressure from the US Senate, who yesterday passed a resolution which urged the governing body to "immediately eliminate gender pay inequity and treat all athletes with the same respect and dignity”.
"If this case continues, if the dispute continues, then there is a probability that the greatest women's soccer team in the world will not be participating in the Olympics," ESPN legal affairs writer Lester Munson told NBC Chicago.
The move to boycott the Olympics, where the US women have won four of the five gold medals on offer since the sport was added to the programme at Atlanta 1996, could cause a further schism between the team and the Federation as the bitter row rumbles on.