The US House has passed a bill that will ensure equal pay for all American women competing in international competitions.

The Equal Pay for Team USA Act was passed on Wednesday (December 21) and will see all athletes who represent the US in global competition – such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic and Paralympic Games – receive equal pay and benefits, regardless of gender.

The bill had already been passed by the US Senate and now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for a final sign-off.

It covers more than 50 national sports and requires the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to conduct oversight and report on compliance with the legislation.

The legislation comes on the back of the US women’s soccer team’s (USWNT) long battle to receive equal pay to their male counterparts.

The original legal challenge to US Soccer came in April 2016 when the players made a complaint to the US government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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Three years later, that turned into a lawsuit, with the five players involved seeking damages under the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts.

Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Shelley Moore Capito introduced the Equal Pay for Team USA Act in 2019, after the (USWNT) sued the national soccer federation.

In May 2020, federal judge Gary Klausner threw out the players' claims for equal pay but allowed their claims about playing conditions to go forward. The players settled the working conditions part of their lawsuit and appealed against the wage decision portion.

Earlier this year, Cantwell and Capito re-introduced the bipartisan bill, which passed the Committee with unanimous support on June 22. The legislation passed the full Senate with unanimous support on December 8.

Following the bill passage, Senator Cantwell said: “The Equal Pay for Team USA Act erases any ambiguity, setting the standard that – when it comes to pay, medical care, travel arrangements, and reimbursement of expenses for players of the same sport – nothing short of equal is acceptable, regardless of gender. 

“I’m grateful for the group of women athletes who – at the top of their game – raised their voices to demand equal pay for their success. With this victory, this monumental, bipartisan legislation is headed to the president’s desk, sending an unequivocal message to all young women and girls who dream of a future in sports: you deserve equal pay and it will be the law of the land.”

US Soccer and the USWNT reached a $24-million legal settlement in February over their long equal pay dispute that had dragged on for around six years. This was approved by judge Klausner in August.

The figure comprises damages of $22 million and a fund worth $2 million to benefit the players in their post-soccer careers. However, the total payment only marks around a third of what the players who brought the suit were originally seeking in damages, which was around $66.9 million.

In addition, the deal means players on the USWNT will now receive bonuses that match those the men’s national team is paid.

The two sides signed off on a new collective bargaining agreement that replaced the previous deal that expired on March 31 which represented a key step in bringing the dispute to an end.

Image: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images