Days after the United States women's soccer team won their fourth World Cup, a US senator introduced a bill Tuesday that would prevent the use of federal funding for the 2026 men's World Cup until the US Soccer Federation agrees to equal pay for the women's and men's teams.
The bill, penned by Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, would prohibit the use of federal funds that would otherwise be provided to support host cities, local and state organizations, US Soccer, CONCACAF, and FIFA when the US cohosts the men's World Cup in 2026.
"The clear unequitable pay between the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams is unacceptable and I’m glad the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team latest victory is causing public outcry," Manchin said in a statement. "They are the best in the world and deserve to be paid accordingly."
The bill comes as the US players continue an ongoing fight for equal pay and investment in the women's game. In March, 28 players sued the federation for discrimination, accusing the governing body of shortchanging them in pay and working conditions in comparison to the men's team, which did not qualify for the men's World Cup last year.
The issue was a constant storyline throughout this year's World Cup. Shortly after the US clinched their fourth title Sunday, the crowd at the championship game in Lyon, France, erupted into chants of "equal pay." The crowd also later booed as FIFA President Gianni Infantino arrived onto the field to present the trophy.
US Soccer did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment.
Manchin said he decided to introduce the bill after receiving a letter from Nikki Izzo-Brown, the head coach of West Virginia University's women's soccer team, calling on the senator to support the US women's fight for equal pay.
Throughout the tournament, dozens of lawmakers and presidential hopefuls have voiced support for the women's team, saying the players should be paid the same as, if not more than, the men.
"I think they should certainly [receive] equal pay for equal work. And since they are winning and have won and have more goals and more viewers, they really should be paid not only as much as the men, but perhaps more,” Gillibrand said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.
Last week, more than 50 members of Congress wrote a letter to the president of US Soccer calling on the federation to fix inequities in pay, publicity, and investment for the women's game.
“The inequities that these women champions have faced as members of the USWNT are indefensible,” the letter states, adding that, according to reporting by multiple news outlets, "there is clear, ongoing institutionalized gender discrimination within the Federation."
While the women's and men's teams are compensated through different pay structures (the women get fixed salaries while the men are only paid if they play), the women argue that the total compensation for the men's team is greater because the bonuses the men receive are so much larger.
For example, the lawsuit filed in March asserts that if each team played and won 20 friendlies in a year, the women players would earn a maximum of $99,000 while the men would earn an average of $263,320.
Meanwhile, the women's team has generated more revenue than the men's in recent years. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that from 2016 to 2018, the women's games generated $50.8 million in revenue, compared with $49.9 million for the men’s.
The players and the federation have agreed to take the complaint to mediation.
When asked whether their success at the World Cup changes the lawsuit, forward and co-captain Megan Rapinoe said in an interview with the Guardian, "Well, it’s not good for them, is it," referring to the federation.
“We’ve been shy to say that and put so much pressure on ourselves because we think we have a case no matter what," Rapinoe said. "But this just blows it out of the water. Is it even about that anymore, or is it just about doing the right thing? The federation is in a unique position to ride this good wave of fortune.”