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A Class of World-Class Footballers

The federal court in Los Angeles has certified a class action in the case of soccer players from the U.S. women’s national team who have sued over unequal pay. What does that mean?

It means the court agreed that the plaintiffs should be grouped together as a class because there’s a lot of them, for one thing, and they present issues common to all of them, so much so that it makes more sense to settle the case in one shot than to have a bunch of separate lawsuits.

And that’s a straightforward application of the law. After all, the U.S. Soccer Federation is the single, common employer for both the men’s and women’s national teams, and it manages every aspect of both programs. It sets their pay, hires their coaches, coordinates their travel, and decides how many games they play. So it made sense to certify a class, or in this case, two classes based on the nature of the claims.

It’s unclear where the case will go from here, though. Class certification doesn’t settle the dispute in itself. It doesn’t prove that there’s an unlawful pay gap. For that, trial is reportedly set in May 2020.

In the meantime, it’s hard to overstate the plaintiffs’ success on the pitch. The women’s national team is ranked number one in the world, and it’s held that position for ten of the last eleven years. They just won their second consecutive World Cup and their fourth overall, more than any other country. According to world rankings, the difference between them and the next best team is bigger than among any of the following 158 teams. Simply put, they are blowing away the field. Which is striking in a world that worships soccer like a religion.

It says something positive about how America values her women.

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