U.S. women soccer players' association hires new executive director

U.S. women's national team players have hired an interim executive director as they prepare for new collective bargaining agreement talks with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Becca Roux takes over the role vacated by Rich Nichols, who parted ways with the USWNTPA last December. Nichols had served as executive director since 2014.

The winners of the 2015 Women's World Cup have been without a contract since Dec. 31. New rounds of talks between the sides are set begin on Feb. 4.

Roux, most recently with consulting group McKinsey & Co., will oversee business affairs and operations in addition to her role in the CBA negotation. The players also announced new legal representation, Bredhoff & Kaiser, for the talks.

"We are very proud of the USWNT Players Association and thrilled to have Becca's leadership moving forward. Becca is not only deeply knowledgeable regarding the issues we face, but also has spot-on business acumen. She brings a passion for sports and a profound commitment to equity for women," said player representative and FC Kansas City defender Becky Sauerbrunn.

At a news conference earlier in the day to announce A&E Networks' purchase of a stake in the National Women's Soccer League, USSF President Sunil Gulati also said he was encouraged by the progress in talks. The sides met during Januray's training camp and there are several meetings scheduled in the coming weeks.

"The tone is just completely different, and everyone wants to get a deal done. The players want to play. We want to have a fair CBA, so I have no doubt we'll get a deal done,'' Gulati said.

The next major tournament for the team is the SheBelieves Cup, which is scheduled for March.

The players have been embroiled in ongoing and contentious talks with the body that oversees U.S. soccer over a new CBA and equal pay.

The federation filed a lawsuit in February 2016 to clarify the expiration date of the previous contract with the association, saying it had feared the players would attempt to sit out the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In March of that year, several players filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, maintaining that a memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

A federal judge, however, ruled in June that the team remained bound by a no-strike provision from its 2005-12 collective bargaining agreement.

The EEOC claim stated that the women's team was being paid about a quarter of what the men earn despite generating nearly $20 million more revenue last year. U.S. Soccer has said that much of the pay disparity was the result of differences in the collective bargaining agreements with each team.

The women's team had set up its compensation structure, which included a guaranteed salary rather than a pay-for-play model like the men, in the last collective bargaining agreement. The players also earn salaries -- paid by the federation -- for playing in the NWSL.

The women receive other benefits, including health care, that the men's national team players don't receive, the federation has maintained.

There has been no decision in the EEOC complaint.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.