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Women's Watch: Will pending lawsuit distract U.S women's soccer team from World Cup prize?

Byline: Patricia Babcock McGraw

Fox Sports has done a great job with its "All Eyes on Us" campaign of commercials to hype the upcoming Women's World Cup next month in France.

Have you seen them?

My favorite is the "David vs. Goliath" spot that dares all the "Davids" out there to try to take down Goliath, the U.S. women's national team that is the defending World Cup champion.

The U.S. team players, lined up side-by-side in a wide shot and charging the camera in the "David vs. Goliath" commercial like a stampede of thoroughbred horses, certainly make an intimidating bunch. The team, which made its World Cup roster official last week, is stacked with a good mix of experienced veterans and hot up-and-comers.

But it will be interesting to see if the U.S. women can stay completely focused while they try to fend off all those Davids. Playing championship level soccer isn't the only thing on their minds these days. They are also in the thick of an equal play legal dispute with U.S. Soccer.

"At the end of the day, we're professionals," veteran Megan Rapinoe said. "We want to win more than anybody else wants us to win. So when it comes time to lock in, I feel like this team is exceptional at compartmentalizing and blocking out distractions and doing everything we need to prepare to be the best team we can be in June."

Like players from the WNBA, the women's national soccer team players are dissatisfied with their pay in relation to players from the men's national soccer team, and they are suing U.S. Soccer for discrimination.

Just this week, U.S. Soccer denied the discrimination claims, but the national team players are not backing down and are set to pick up their fight in a lawsuit after the World Cup concludes.

"Even as the most decorated American soccer team in history, (U.S. Soccer) treats the women's team as less-than equal compared to their male colleagues," said Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for the national team players. "We look forward to a trial next year after the World Cup."

The women's national soccer team, which has been ranked No. 1 in the world for 10 of the past 11 years, has won three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. And its 2015 World Cup championship game was the most-watched soccer match in American television history.

Yet, according to the lawsuit filed by the women's national team, players from the men's national team can earn an average of about $13,000 per game while players from the women's team can earn a maximum of about $5,000 per game.

"The bottom line is simple: It is wrong for us to be paid and valued less for our work because of our gender," said national team defender Becky Sauerbrunn. "Every member of this team works incredibly hard to achieve the success that we have had for the (United States Soccer Federation). We are standing up now so that our efforts, and those of future USWNT players, will be fairly recognized."

Chi-town feel: Of the 23 players on the women's World Cup roster, four are from the Chicago Red Stars.

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was part of the 2015 World Cup championship team but did not see any playing time. She is one of three goalkeepers.

Defender Tierna Davidson earned her first World Cup team spot while midfielders Morgan Brian and Julie Ertz are back from the 2015 team.

Overall, 12 players are back from the 2015 World Championship team, headlined by uber veteran Carli Lloyd, who is 36 years old and playing in her fourth World Cup.

Lloyd, who was the winner of the Golden Ball at the 2015 World Cup, is the ninth American woman to appear in four World Cups.

Six players will be playing in their third World Cup, including Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Ali Krieger, Kelley O'Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn.

The U.S. women, led by head coach Jill Ellis, take on Thailand in their first World Cup game June 11 in Reims, France.

Sweden is also in the Americans' opening rounds group (F). And there is a score to settle there for the U.S.

At the 2016 Olympics, Sweden eliminated the U.S. women in the quarterfinals, which denied the U.S. a chance to medal in a major soccer tournament for the first time in history.

Twitter: @babcockmcgraw
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:May 11, 2019
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