USWNT's equal pay suit will go to trial in 2020

A week after mediation attempts broke down, a federal judge set a trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit brought against U.S. Soccer by members of the women's national team.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner said in a hearing Monday morning in Los Angeles that the trial will begin May 5, 2020 and last between four to five days.

A spokesperson for the players confirmed the trial date and said their side welcomes the news.

"We are pleased with the expeditious schedule that has been set by the Court and we are eager to move forward this case," Molly Levinson said in the statement. "We very much look forward to the trial in May 2020 when the players will have their day in court. We have every confidence that these world champion athletes will get what they legally deserve -- nothing less than equal pay and working conditions."

Representatives for the players did not immediately respond when asked what that meant for any further discussions or mediation with the federation in advance of the trial.

U.S. Soccer also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the trial date.

The players had previously requested a November trial date, while U.S. Soccer requested a December date.

If the lawsuit moves toward trial without settlement it will be preceded by a discovery process in which both sides will have to exchange evidence and witnesses will testify under oath.

The lawsuit was filed in California this past March by 28 members of the national team player pool, including 22 of 23 players who helped the U.S. win the World Cup this summer. The suit alleged that the women's players "have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts" for performing the same job responsibilities with "superior" results.

The two sides agreed to mediation to begin after the Women's World Cup, but those talks broke down after a matter of days last week. Both sides expressed frustration with each other's intransigence. In subsequent remarks, U.S. co-captain Megan Rapinoe said equal pay was the starting point for any agreement, not an opening position to be bargained down.

Among those most recently voicing their support for the players' cause of gender equality in soccer was Ada Hegerberg, winner of the first women's Ballon d'Or last year. Hegerberg chose not to play for Norway in the World Cup because of disagreements with that country's federation over issues of gender equality. Playing for Olympique Lyon in the Women's International Champions Cup in Cary, North Carolina, this past week, she was asked if the U.S. fight is her fight as well.

"I think everyone in the world is fighting their fight, even though it's not in the press," Hegerberg said after Lyon's ICC semifinal. "You have everyday heroes, you call them, everywhere. Not only in sports. But it's a fight to get there. You need to stick together. The more people you have, the more women who stick together, the more power you get. Power to make a change.

"People think it's only about money, but it's a lot about respect as well, being put in the place you deserve. It should be a trend everywhere."

The timing of Monday's hearing and Klausner's decision means the national team currently knows more about the schedule of its lawsuit than it does about its on-field schedule in 2020. CONCACAF has yet to announce the location or dates of Olympic qualifying, although it's likely to be in late January or early February. The Olympic soccer competition begins July 22.

The U.S. also doesn't yet know who its coach will be for qualifying or any Olympic participation. That decision is in the hands of Kate Markgraf, the former World Cup winner who was last week named the first general manager of the women's team.