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Goal reached: US women’s soccer team gets new contract

FILE - This Oct. 10, 2014, file photo shows Sunil Gulati, president of the United States Soccer Federation, during a press conference in Bristol, Conn. The U.S. Soccer Federation and the World Cup champion women's team have agreed on a labor contract, settling a dispute in which the players sought equitable wages to their male counterparts. The financial terms and length of the multiyear deal were not disclosed. The agreement was ratified by the players and the federation's board Tuesday, April 4, 2017. AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

The U.S. women’s national team believes its new contract is both fair and good for the future of the sport.

The U.S. Soccer Federation and the team’s union announced Wednesday that a labor deal had been struck to settle an at times contentious dispute in which the players sought equitable wages to their male counterparts.

The collective bargaining agreement runs through 2021, meaning the players will be under contract through the 2019 World Cup in France and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The women will receive raises in base pay and bonuses as well as better provisions for travel and accommodations, including increased per diems. It also gives the players some control of certain licensing and marketing rights.

“It felt very empowering,” forward Alex Morgan said. “Because there is a whole issue going on in the country as far as equal pay and the fight for the gender pay gap. And I felt really happy with the agreement that we reached and the fact that we can now do what we came for and play soccer.”

Specific details about deal were not disclosed, but it comes as the national team is preparing to play an exhibition match against Russia on Thursday in Frisco, Texas. The team faces Russia again Sunday in Houston.

The two sides convened for intense negotiations in Texas over the weekend. The contract was ratified by the players and the federation’s board Tuesday.

The team had been playing under a memorandum of understanding that expired Dec. 31.

“This has been by far the most involved the team has been,” Megan Rapinoe said before a training session on Wednesday afternoon. “And the most say that we’ve had in anything. The full group decision from a diverse group of voting members and I think that we’re excited that we have a deal. For me the best thing that came out of the deal is how it sets us up going into the future.”

The agreement was reached before the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season on April 15. U.S. Soccer pays the wages of the national team players who are allocated across the domestic league, and the terms of those salaries are outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

A year ago a group of players drew attention to the fight for a better contract when they filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The women maintained that players for the men’s national team earned far more than they did in many cases despite comparable work.

U.S. Soccer took the players’ association to court to clarify that the memorandum of understanding ran through Dec. 31, 2016, after the union maintained that players could strike. A federal judge ruled in June that the team remained bound by a no-strike provision from its 2005-12 CBA, heading off any labor action that could have affected last Olympics in Brazil.

Then late last year talks were stalled when the players split with the union’s executive director. They picked up again over the last two months after U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association brought in a new executive director and legal representation.

The USSF had maintained that much of the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s teams resulted from separate labor agreements. The women’s team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last contract.

There has been no decision issued in the EEOC complaint, which was brought by Morgan, Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd. All five were on the team that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

It is unclear if the complaint is moot now that the sides have a new CBA.

“I think that the deal that we got is phenomenal. It’s a great step for the team now,” Sauerbrunn said Wednesday. “But (it’s also) a great launching point for other CBA negotiations and for other eras of teams that will be negotiating.”

The contract announcement follows an agreement between USA Hockey and its women’s national team for better compensation following a threat by players to boycott the world championships.

The Irish women’s national soccer team also said Tuesday it could skip an upcoming international match because of a labor dispute. The players, many of them amateurs, say they aren’t compensated for time off from their daily jobs. They say they don’t even have their own team apparel, but share it with Ireland’s youth teams.

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AP freelancer Sean Shapiro in Texas contributed to this report.

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