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Latham & Watkins Steps In for U.S. Soccer After Filing Backlash

March 12, 2020, 9:52 PM

The U.S. Soccer Federation has tapped Latham & Watkins to join its defense in a gender pay suit brought by the national women’s team, soon after another firm the federation hired, Seyfarth, submitted a filing in the case that said women had less soccer skill than men.

In a statement of apology for the filing, USSF President Carlos Cordeiro said the federation would call on Latham, which it has worked with before.

“On behalf of U.S. Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week’s court filing, which did not reflect the values of our Federation or our tremendous admiration of our Women’s National Team,” said Cordeiro.

He went on to say that the governing body of U.S. soccer would add Latham to its team to “guide our legal strategy going forward.” Latham did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

It is unclear whether Seyfarth will remain counsel to the organization, and firm declined to comment on the filing and its public response.

Seyfarth’s name still appeared on the docket Thursday evening.

Pay Suit

In March 2019, 25 players on the Women’s National Team filed a gender discrimination suit against the USSF alleging they were unlawfully underpaid compared to their male counterparts on the men’s national team.

The trial is scheduled to begin in May. The women’s team players are represented by Winston & Strawn.

But on Monday lawyers for the USSF at Seyfarth filed a response to the players’ motion for summary judgment, claiming that the women on team are less skilled and have less-demanding roles than the men on the U.S. national team.

The attorneys argued that the job of a men’s national soccer team player “requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength” than a women’s team player’s job does, and so the two cannot be compared for equal pay purposes.

The backlash from the women’s soccer team and members of the public was swift.

The team wore their warm-up jerseys inside out, hiding the U.S. soccer crest, in protest at the SheBelieves Cup in Frisco, Texas, prior to Cordeiro’s apology Wednesday evening.

This isn’t the first time Latham has represented the USSF. The most recent tax filings by the federation show that it paid more than $2.45 million to Latham for legal services for fiscal year 2017-18.

The former president of the USSF Alan Rothenberg is a retired partner at Latham.

In 2012, the firm successfully represented the USSF in an antitrust battle against Championsworld, a now bankrupt promoter of international soccer exhibition matches. The firm also advised the USSF and the National Women’s Soccer League on the formation of the league in 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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