U.S. Soccer's Lydia Wahlke resigns in latest fallout from controversial defense of its WNT lawsuit

Lydia Wahlke became the latest casualty of U.S. Soccer's controversial defense of the gender discrimination suit filed by members of the U.S. women's national team.

Wahlke resigned as the federation's chief legal officer, two months after she was placed on administrative leave.

In the wake of the filing by high-profile labor management firm Seyfarth Shaw on March 9, arguing that players on the women’s team didn’t have the physical abilities or the same responsibilities as players on the men’s team, U.S. Soccer received immediate backlash from the U.S. soccer community and sponsors.

On March 12, U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigned and was replaced by vice president Cindy Parlow Cone. U.S. Soccer dropped Seyfarth Shaw as counsel of record in the federal suit, bringing in its longtime law firm, Latham & Watkins, to handle the case.

Wahlke was placed on administrative leave, pending an external investigation into the process that led to the arguments being presented in response to the players' motion for a summary judgment.

The federation announced her departure in a note to staff Thursday and said she will be a consultant through Sept. 15. The news was first reported by Grant Wahl.

In a statement to the media, Parlow Cone said: “It should be clear that while Carlos Cordeiro did not review or approve of the offensive language in the filing, by personally resigning he decided to put the best interest of U.S. Soccer first."

The federation noted that in the future "substantial legal filings of this nature" would be reviewed by the president, members of the board of directors and others within the federation to ensure that what happened with Seyfarth Shaw wouldn't happen again.

While Cordeiro, Cone and other federation officials might not have reviewed the specific language that was presented by Seyfarth Shaw, the issues related to the relative physical abilities of the men's and women's national team players were central to depositions taken on both sides.

The incendiary arguments were later withdrawn from the federation's filings by Latham & Watkins. Ironically, any arguments related to whether the women had proven the elements of their compensation discrimination complaint under the Equal Pay Act related to skill, effort and responsibility or working conditions were irrelevant when the women's suit for equal pay was thrown out by the court on May 1.

The court ruled that the women been paid more than the men, both cumulatively and on an average per-game basis, over the years in question. The women have asked the court to grant their request for an appeal, and the trial on other aspects of the case under Title XII of the Civil Rights Act has been pushed back until September.

Wahlke came to U.S. Soccer in 2017 from the Chicago Cubs, where she served as general counsel. Her tenure coincided with tremendous upheaval at U.S. Soccer, beginning with the 2018 presidential election whose rules she had to oversee.

U.S. Soccer was sued by the NASL, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Relevent Sports Group in federal court in addition to defending separate discrimination complaints filed by women's national team players as a class and Hope Solo individually.

The NASL failed to receive a preliminary injunction -- the case is still pending in federal court in Brooklyn -- and the federation and foundation recently settled their case.

Wahlke's work on the discrimination complaints even took her to Washington, where she joined lobbyists last summer in meeting with lawmakers to push back against the women, whose equal pay claims received widespread support.

4 comments about "U.S. Soccer's Lydia Wahlke resigns in latest fallout from controversial defense of its WNT lawsuit".
  1. Peter Bechtold, May 22, 2020 at 10:32 a.m.

    Curious: "She came to US Soccer from the Chicago Cubs"...
    Did she have background in soccer, or was it that she worked in Chicago ?

  2. Wooden Ships replied, May 22, 2020 at 12:55 p.m.

    Come on Peter, both balls are round. Sorry. I'm guessing the big consideration is her locale. 

  3. frank schoon replied, May 23, 2020 at 9:57 a.m.

    LOLOLOLOLOLOL, Come guys, it's still too early for me to laugh so much...

    Doesn't this sum everything that has to do with USSF...I hope someone can creatively find a more appropriate terms for the Acronym USSF...I got some choice ideas for SS and F but still trying to find what U could stand for....

  4. Stephen Selby, May 22, 2020 at 4:08 p.m.

    Like to see a game between the Mens WC winner starters and the Womens WC winner starters, Just saying...

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