Megan Rapinoe applauded the first steps.

The United States women's national soccer team is getting closer to getting equal pay with the men's team. According to The New York Times, the judge overseeing the women's gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer has granted them class status. It's an important step, becuase the women coming forward can be considered an affected group instead of individuals, which would have seen them all filing separate suits.

The judge, R. Gary Klausner of United States District Court for the Central District of California, did not make any decisions on whether or not the players' allegations of discrimination were true or not. The decision allows for any player who was called up to the team during a specific time period — not just the 28 named plaintiffs — to be part of the case.

USA v Thailand: Group F - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France
Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Meghan Rapinoe, who has been vocal throughout the case, told the Times that although she knows the decision is just the beginning, it's a step in the right direction.

"Sometimes it's just nice for someone to say, 'I believe you and I am validating what you’ve been saying,'" Rapinoe told the Times. "We have an internal belief in what we're doing. But to have someone, and in this case someone very important in this case, say, 'I believe what you're saying,' is very important."

The fight for equal pay has been going on for years and the USWNT has become a firebrand for female athletes in all sports. Olympians Alysia Montaño, Kara Goucher, and Allyson Felix, who compete in track and field, told the Times that they earned lower compensation than male runners from their shoe sponsor, Nike. The company adjusted its policies after the women came forward.

The USWNT players initiated their case against U.S. Soccer with a wage-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Then, they moved to a gender-discrimination lawsuit. With today's decision, the case can move forward in the court system. Klausner has set a court date of May 2020 for the proceedngs.

"We're the only team they can have, they're the only federation we can have," Rapinoe continued. "I mean, everybody's here. If the conversation can move forward, if we get further along in the process, potentially we can get back together. But we're going to need to see quite a bit more."