Los Angeles: Coca-Cola slammed US Soccer after the federation claimed in court documents that playing for the men's national team carries more responsibility and requires a higher level of skill than that demanded of women players.
US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro issued an apology for the "offense and pain caused" by the court document language hours after being ripped by a major sponsor.
The federation made the gender claims in papers filed this week in the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the US Women's National Team against the federation in March of 2019.
"We are extremely disappointed with the unacceptable and offensive comments made by US Soccer," the Coca-Cola Company said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We have asked to meet with them immediately to express our concerns.
"The Coca-Cola Co. is firm in its commitment to gender equality, fairness and women's empowerment in the United States and around the world and we expect the same from our partners," added the company, which is a long-established corporate partner of both the US Soccer Federation and FIFA, football's global governing body and organizer of the men's and women's World Cups.
Cordeiro followed by saying the legal language didn't reflect US Soccer's true "values" or appreciation of the women's team.
"On behalf of US 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," Cordeiro said.
"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."
The women players' lawsuit accuses the federation of gender discrimination and demands $66 million in back pay under the Equal Pay act and the Civil Rights Act.
Both sides have requested a summary judgment seeking a ruling in their favour before the May 5 trial date.
In its submission filed this week, the USSF argued that the hostile environments in which the men's team play are "unmatched by anything the Women's National Team (WNT) must face ..."
The federation also argued that "The job of (a men's national team) player (competing against senior men's national teams) requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than does the job of (women's national team) player (competing against senior women's national teams)."
Molly Levinson, spokeswoman for the players pursuing the lawsuit, called it a "ridiculous 'argument.'"
"It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman," Levinson said. "Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players 'have more responsibility' is just plain simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with.
"So looking forward to trial on May 5," Levinson concluded.
Cordeiro said US Soccer will make "immediate changes" going forward.
"I have made it clear to our legal team that even as we debate facts and figures in the course of this case, we must do so with the utmost respect not only for our Women's National Team players but for all female athletes around the world," he said.
"As we do, we will continue to work to resolve this suit in the best interest of everyone involved."