USWNT Colorado stars are free to play their best after US Soccer team’s historic collective bargaining agreement

There are only two weeks left until the 2023 Women’s World Cup qualifiers. Instead of delving into long-running issues off the field, the US women’s national team can only play.

It’s about time.

At least that’s what Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith emphatically said Tuesday during a press conference ahead of the USWNT’s friendly against Columbia at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Commerce City.

The game, which will be played at Dikes Sporting Goods Park, will be the program’s first since the historic collective bargaining agreements between the NFL and the men’s and women’s national team players’ associations were announced in mid-May.

The deal achieved guaranteed equal pay and equal pay rates for both teams until 2028 and includes World Cup prizes. Many players in the USWNT have been fighting for equal pay since 2016.

The 26-player team trained at UCHealth Training Center on Tuesday and three Colorado natives, Smith, Pugh and Jalen Howell, covered the media on a wide range of topics, including the new CBA. For Smith, a 21-year-old Windsor native who has only been with the team since 2020, the agreement still feels quake a month later.

“I mean it’s cool,” Smith said, “I’m so lucky to be in the position.” “We always thank the people who came before us and those who have literally fought this battle longer than I have been alive. For us to capitalize on that is amazing.”

“(I was) excited – but also – finally relieved. Because it’s long overdue and something that should have happened a long time ago. It’s definitely a great starting point, but I obviously think there’s still a long way to go.”

Smith has been in a daze this season with the Portland Thorns in the NBA. She is the second best scorer with eight goals so far in the regular season. In all competitions, including club and national team matches, she has 15 goals in 2022.

However, with a major tournament on the horizon and their first Women’s World Cup qualifier no less, the chance to focus solely on the matches is to win.

“I’m just looking forward to playing with this group, and I think it’s a great roster,” Smith said in her opening comments. “I’m really excited about what I think we can do. I think the older players give us a lot of ideas about how these leagues work. These teams are good teams, you never know what you’re going to get from them, so expect anything. Just prepare. to the best teams and do what we have to do to get the results we need.”

In the month following the agreement, women’s national teams lobbied federations on the issue of equal pay around the world.

Spain’s women’s team will receive the same percentage of bonuses as the men’s team from last week, while the Netherlands have agreed to a similar deal that will start in July. Norway and Australia also have equal pay deals for the same game-day wage rate, but the American football deal addressed the overall compensation gap.

For Pugh, a Highlands Ranch native who has been with the national team since 2016 and scored six goals in 2022, this is the end of one chapter, but the beginning of a whole new chapter for the future of women’s sport.

“The only thing I keep saying is that I’m grateful,” Pugh said. “I think there were a lot of people who put a lot of time and effort into this whole process, and it was a long process. For us to finally reach our goal and get what we deserve, it’s really great to see. I think it’s also very hopeful to see how women’s sport will continue. To grow and develop. We hope to continue moving forward.”

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