The United States Soccer Federation and the 28 USWNT players suing the federation over pay discrimination have agreed to undergo a mediation process, according to Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal and Andrew Das and Kevin Draper of the New York Times.
Per the NYT report: "The mediation is to begin as soon as possible after the women complete play in the Women's World Cup, currently underway in France. The agreement may be the first sign that the long-running dispute between the players and the federation can be resolved outside federal court."
The players, including Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, have also accused the federation of "discrimination related to the players' medical treatment, their working conditions and even the surface they play on during matches," and they are requesting wages more in line with the men's national team.
The players' lawsuit broke down the gulf in pay between the USWNT and USMNT:
"A comparison of the WNT and MNT pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all twenty friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face. A 20-game winning top tier WNT player would earn only 38 percent of the compensation of a similarly situated MNT player."
Additionally, "The pay for advancement through the rounds of the World Cup was so skewed that, in 2014, the USSF provided the MNT with performance bonuses totaling $5,375,000 for losing in the Round of 16, while, in 2015, the USSF provided the WNT with only $1,725,000 for winning the entire tournament."
The United States Soccer Federation has countered that the USWNT signed a collective bargaining agreement in 2017, agreeing to the terms they are now suing to change. They've also argued that "disparity in prize money between the men's and women's World Cups are decided by FIFA, the sport's international governing body, and thus out of U.S. Soccer's control."
But this year's Women's World Cup has seen a surge in viewership, as Nancy Armour of USA Today wrote:
"Ratings on Fox are, simply, stunning. They are up 13 percent overall from the 2015 World Cup, which was in time zone-friendlier Canada, and up 66 percent from 2011. Broadcasts of the U.S. women's games have seen a 3 percent increase from 2015, when all of the games were aired in prime time.
"There's a similar trend across the globe. Brazil's win over Italy in the group-stage finale was shown live and had a combined audience of 22.4 million viewers."
The USWNT's fight may ultimately become a fight with FIFA, which has had avoidable issues at this year's World Cup revolving around ticketing and a lack of transportation for fans, among other concerns. There continues to be the sense within the soccer community that FIFA doesn't treat the Women's World Cup as a top priority.
And the U.S. women aren't alone in their protests. One of the top players in the world, Norway's Ada Hegerberg, has boycotted the event over unequal treatment for the women's team.
The United States women have won three of the seven Women's World Cups, while the U.S. men have never done so and failed to even qualify for the most recent World Cup.
The U.S. women are also favored to add a fourth title this summer after blasting through the group stage and outscoring Sweden, Chile and Thailand 18-0. But they are fighting a battle on two fronts, and the one on the pitch has offered less resistance to this point.