By Mary Cunningham

Twenty-eight members of the world champion United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit on yesterday in United States District Court in Los Angeles,  describing “institutionalized gender discrimination” that they say has existed for years.

The discrimination, the athletes said, affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches.

The players involved — stars like Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and South Jersey native Carli Lloyd (above) and their teammates — include some of the most accomplished and best-known female athletes in the world, members of a team that has been a leading force in women’s sports for more than a generation.

The court filing of the lawsuit brought by U.S. Women’s Soccer players against the United States Soccer Federation alleging violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (PDF, 25 pages, 0.23 MB)

The players’ continuing battle with U.S. Soccer, which is not only their employer, but also the federation that governs the sport in America, has thrust them to the forefront of a broader fight for equality in women’s sports. In recent years, players, teams and even athletes in other sports — American hockey gold medalists, Canadian soccer pros, W.N.B.A. players — have reached out to the United States players and their union for guidance in their efforts to win similar gains in pay and working conditions.

“I think to be on this team is to understand these issues,” Rapinoe said in a telephone interview. “And I think we’ve always — dating back to forever — been a team that stood up for itself and fought hard for what it felt it deserved and tried to leave the game in a better place.”