NEW YORK: The equal pay issue which stung tennis recently has crossed over into football with five senior members of the United States women’s national team preparing to sue US Soccer for pay discrimination.

Three weeks ago the organising head of the Indian Wells tennis event was forced to quit after suggesting the women’s game had ridden on the coattails of the men.

Now key member of the Americans’ Women’s World Cup and Olympic champions teams are complaining that they are paid less than the men despite being “the driving economic force for US Soccer.”

The players are co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo. Lloyd is the current Women’s World Player of the Year.

A complaint is being submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency which monitors the application of civil laws against workplace discrimination.

The players’ lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, said that according to US Soccer’s own recent accounts, women players earned only 40pc of the wages of their male counterparts.

The women’s national team have won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals and are favourites to win again at the Rio Games in August. By contrast the furthest the men have managed in their World Cup is the quarter-finals.

This is not the first dispute between the women players and US Soccer.

Last year a ‘victory tour’ match in Hawaii was scrapped when the players refused to play on an artificial pitch they considered unsafe.

Senior women players are paid about $72,000 a year by the federation, significantly below the men’s rate. However US Soccer receives a far higher share-out from FIFA  for participation in the men’s World Cup than the women’s championship.