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The US women's football team feel liberated after winning equal pay battle

Star US player Alex Morgan feels that the defending champions are much more relaxed at the World Cup after. winning the fight for equal pay

Alex Morgan at the Women's World Cup.
Alex Morgan at the Women's World Cup. (AP)

Alex Morgan said Tuesday her United States team felt liberated after winning their fight for equal pay and can now focus on pursuing an unprecedented third straight Women's World Cup crown. One of the best-known players in women's football, the 34-year-old hopes that other national teams will also eventually win their own battles for pay parity. 

"Any time you take your focus off playing and what your job is, that is distractions that are unnecessary," the forward told reporters in Auckland. "So not having distractions like having to fight for equal pay and working conditions moving forward, at all, ever again, it feels really good. I hope that will soon be the case for all of the players around the world at international level."

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The US team, led by their highest-profile names like Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, filed a complaint several years ago against the US Soccer Federation alleging wage discrimination. Their fight eventually led to a landmark collective-bargaining deal that was announced in May 2022 and meant the US men's and women's teams would evenly share World Cup prize money.

Prize money from FIFA is not the same for the Women's World Cup as for the men's. The total prize pot for this year's tournament in Australia and New Zealand is $152 million, which is triple the figure from four years ago. The figure for the men's tournament in Qatar last year was $440 million, with the United States men's team pocketing $13 million for reaching the last 16.

Numerous other women's national teams are fighting for the same conditions, with the Canadians threatening to go on strike earlier this year in a row over pay, funding and contractual issues.

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The US team's triumphant campaign at the World Cup in France in 2019 was played out with that off-field battle looming over them. Chants of "Equal Pay" rang out from the stands after they beat the Netherlands 2-0 in the final. "Where we were in 2019 to where we are now is almost the same but also couldn't be more different," said Morgan as she and her team prepare to face the Dutch again on Thursday. 

"We were fighting a legal battle off the field and trying to also win over the world's hearts and minds and prove ourselves. This time around we don't have to worry about anything off the field. That feels really good and we have to do the work each time we step on the field. US Soccer has done a great job in supporting us and that is not the case with a lot of other federations around the world."

Morgan, appearing at her fourth World Cup, had a penalty saved as the USA began their campaign in New Zealand with a 3-0 win over Vietnam on Saturday. The Netherlands beat Portugal 1-0 in their first outing in Group E, setting up the rerun of the 2019 final nicely. "We watched the Netherlands the other night and they have a lot of the same players as when we played them four years ago," Morgan added. “They have a little bit of a different formation but still the same personnel and that is important for team chemistry, so we know we have to be at our best. This is going to be a very big match-up.”

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