The US women's national team won the 2019 FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images

A six-year legal dispute between the United States women's football team and US Soccer over equal pay appears close to an end, after the two sides reached an agreement promising the players $24 million (£17.7 million/€21.1 million) plus bonuses matching those of men.

The deal, announced today, will see players split $22 million (£16.2 million/€19.4 million), around one-third of what they sought in damages.

US Soccer also agreed to create a $2 million (£1.4 million/€1.8 million) fund to help athletes during their post-playing careers, as well as support charitable endeavours benefiting women's sport.

It is still subject to a new collective bargaining agreement being signed.

The national governing body will also provide equal pay for the men's and women's national teams, including for all friendly matches and tournaments.

"We are pleased to announce that, contingent on the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement, we will have resolved our longstanding dispute over equal pay and proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer," a joint statement said.

Megan Rapinoe was a key figure in the legal dispute ©Getty Images
Megan Rapinoe was a key figure in the legal dispute ©Getty Images

"Getting to this day has not been easy.

"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.  

"Together, we dedicate this moment to them. 

"We look forward to continuing to work together to grow women’s soccer and advance opportunities for young girls and women in the United States and across the globe."

The group of players, led by Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, were originally seeking $66 million (£48.5 million/€58.2 million) in damages after claiming they had been paid less than their male counterparts.

Proceedings began with Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd joining Morgan and Rapinoe in filing a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2016.

Striker Alex Morgan was one of the players leading the campaign for equal pay ©Getty Images
Striker Alex Morgan was one of the players leading the campaign for equal pay ©Getty Images

Three years later, the players sued under the federal Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Fans chanted "equal pay" when the US retained their FIFA World Cup title in 2019 in France.

Former player Cindy Parlow Cone became US Soccer President in the midst of the legal case, following Carlos Cordeiro quitting.

Cordeiro faced heavy criticism following a legal filing in which he claimed the women's team had less physical ability and responsibility than men.

"This is just one step towards rebuilding the relationship with the women’s team," Cone said today.

"I think this is a great accomplishment and I’m excited about the future and working together with them.

"Now we can shift the focus to other things, most importantly, growing the game at all levels and increasing opportunities for girls and women."

In May 2020, a federal judge dismissed part of the lawsuit after ruling unequal pay claims were not proven, but allowed allegations of discriminatory working conditions to proceed to trial

In December of that year, the women’s national team reached a settlement with US Soccer over equal work conditions, such as travel, staffing, accommodation and playing surfaces.

The following December, the players filed a final brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to attempt to revive their case for equal pay.

"For us, this is just a huge win in ensuring that we are not only righting the wrongs of the past but set the next generation up for something we only dreamed of," Rapinoe told NBC.

"It's so gratifying to feel like we can start to mend a relationship with US Soccer that has been severed for so many years because of the discrimination that we faced."

While a labour contract is yet to be agreed to and ratified to replace the collective bargaining agreement which  expires on March 31, the union for the women’s team is pleased with the settlement, clling it "an important step in righting the many wrongs of the past".