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Just when it seemed that the relationship between the United States Soccer Federation and the members of is women’s national team couldn’t get any worse, the bottom fell out Wednesday before and after a game in Frisco, Texas.

The United States Women’s National Team staged a protest against the USSF before the 3- 1 victory over Japan in the SheBelieves Cup and Megan Rapinoe, the star of the club’s most recent World Cup success, rejected an apology afterward.

The USWNT players make their feelings known

The members of the national team stepped onto the field at Toyota Stadium, about 15 miles north of Dallas, wearing their warm-up jerseys turned inside out. Hiding the team logo was an unmistakable message to the United States Soccer Federation about the fight between the two sides over pay.

Rather than having the 11 starters line up for the traditional pre-game photo, all the team members took the field.

The legal fight has been acrimonious from the start, with the United States Women’s National Team players contending they should receive the same pay and benefits as the men’s team. The USSF argues that there is a substantial difference in the revenue generated by the teams.

A trial in the suit brought by the women on the grounds of a potential Title VII violation is scheduled to start May 5. In a filing Monday countering the team’s request for a summary judgment, the USSF ripped open sores that hadn’t even had time to heal. The USSF argued that players on the men’s team are physically superior and have greater responsibility because their international competition is more competitive and offers more opportunities to bring in money.

The USSF summarized by saying that the USWNT, which is seeking $67 million in back pay to reflect its four World Cup championships and four Olympic golds since 1991, may experience more success on the field but the players’ work does not qualify as equal to what the men do.

An apology to the USWNT players

In a statement released late in Wednesday’s victory over Japan, USSF President Carlos Cordeiro apologized for the language used in the court filing earlier in the week.

“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. Our WNT players are incredibly talented and work tirelessly, as they have demonstrated time and again from their Olympic Gold medals to their World Cup titles.”

Cordeiro also said the USSF was adding new legal counsel to guide it through the resolution of the case, suggesting that the governing body would continue to argue its point but with “utmost respect not only for our Women’s National Team players but for all female athletes around the world.”

Megan Rapinoe brushes off the apology

Megan Rapinoe scored one of the U.S. goals in the 3-1 win against Japan and later teed off on USSF President Carlos Cordeiro for the apology, suggesting that the statement was damage control in the face of a rebuke by Coca-Cola and other corporate sponsors.

“We don’t buy it. … That wasn’t for us. That was for fans, media, sponsors. … Every negotiation we’ve had, those undertones are in there that we’re lesser.”

Wednesday’s game was possibly the last contest for the USWNT before the start of the trial. Citing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, the USSF announced the cancellation of friendlies scheduled for April 10 against Australia and April 14 vs. Brazil.