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United States Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone said Friday the body hopes to "equalize" World Cup prize money for its men's and women's national teams as part of efforts to settle ongoing litigation with its women footballers.
In an open letter addressed to US fans, Parlow Cone said the gulf in prize money paid out by FIFA in the men's and women's tournaments was "by far the most challenging issue" facing US Soccer in pay negotiations with men's and women's teams.
The question of World Cup prize money formed a prominent part of a lawsuit filed by the US women's soccer team in 2019, which accused the USSF of "stubbornly refusing" to pay it's men and women's players equally.
A federal judge later rejected the claim of pay discrimination, but the US women have appealed.
The 2019 lawsuit cited the discrepancy in World Cup prize money payments paid to the two teams in 2014 and 2015.
The US men received $5.375 million for reaching the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup, while the women received $1.725 million for winning the 2015 tournament.
The USSF has argued that its hands are tied because the prize money is set by FIFA, which awarded $38 million to France for winning the 2018 men's World Cup in Russia, but only $4 million to the American women for winning the 2019 Women's World Cup.
"FIFA alone control those funds," Parlow Cone said in her letter on Friday. "And US Soccer is legally obligated to distribute those funds based on our current negotiated collective bargaining agreements with the men's and women's teams."
However Parlow Cone said US Soccer wants to bring the men's and women's national teams together to "rethink how we've done things in the past."
"To that end, we have invited the players and both Players Associations to join US Soccer in negotiating a solution together that equalizes World Cup prize money between the USMNT and USWNT," she wrote.
"Finding a framework that works for everyone will require open and thoughtful conversations and sincere commitment from USMNT and USWNT players to come together.
"Until FIFA equalizes the prize money that it awards to the Men's and Women's World Cup participants, it is incumbent upon us to collectively find a solution.
"US Soccer is ready and willing to meet with both groups of players as soon as possible and as often as needed to determine that innovative solution.
"We hope our men's and women's national teams share our sense of urgency when it comes to doing whatever we can to resolve the prize money gap."
Parlow Cone said the USSF had wanted to negotiate a single collective bargaining agreement covering men's and women's team, but had met resistance. Accordingly, the USSF is negotiating separate agreements.
US Soccer said the body "will be offering the USMNT and the USWNT the exact same contract, just as we have in past negotiations."
"That means offering CBAs that include equalized FIFA prize money, identical game bonuses and identical commercial and revenue sharing agreements."
A spokeswoman for the US women's team said Parlow Cone's letter showed that the USSF "finally acknowledged that they pay women less than men and must correct this ongoing disparity by reaching an equal pay collective bargaining agreement and resolving the ongoing lawsuit.
"Letters to fans are not a substitute."