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U.S. Soccer, women’s national team agree on new contract

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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.

“We are proud of the hard work and commitment to thoughtful dialogue reflected through this process, and look forward to strengthening our partnership moving forward,” U.S. Soccer and the players’ association said in a joint statement Wednesday.

The deal comes as the national team is preparing to play an exhibition match against Russia on Thursday in Frisco, Texas. The team faces Russia again on Sunday in Houston.

The agreement 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.

The deal comes 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.

“I’m proud of the tireless work that the players and our bargaining team put in to promote the game and ensure a bright future for American players,” player representative Meghan Klingenberg said in a statement. “We are excited to further strengthen the USWNTPA through our new revenue generating opportunities and abilities.”

A group of players drew attention to the fight for a better contract a year ago 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.

Talks had stalled late last year 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. Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn and Christen Press were elected player representatives at the team’s January training camp.

The memorandum of understanding between U.S. Soccer and USWNTPA was struck in March 2013. Early last year U.S. Soccer took the players’ association to court to clarify that the CBA ran through 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 collective bargaining agreement, heading off any labor action that could have affected last Olympics in Brazil.

The USSF has 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 Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. All five were on the team that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“While I think there is still much progress to be made for us and for women more broadly, I think the WNTPA should be very proud of this deal and feel empowered moving forward,” Rapinoe said.

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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MORE: U.S. women’s hockey deal could have far-reaching impact

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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