From a chant by fans in a stadium in France, “Equal pay!” is now the essence of a bill introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday.
The bill would withhold federal funds related to hosting the 2026 World Cup until the U.S. Soccer Federation agrees to give its national women’s and men’s teams the same compensation.
“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’s 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 “Equal pay!” chant rang out after the U.S. women’s national team beat the Netherlands on Sunday to win the Women’s World Cup for the fourth time and conclude a riveting tournament run. As Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Co. knocked off one opponent after another and asserted their squad’s dominance on the global stage, a major subplot was a gender discrimination lawsuit the team filed this year against the U.S. Soccer Federation.
On Sunday, a team spokeswoman released a statement that read: “At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won’t stand for it anymore. These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher TV ratings but get paid less simply because they are women.
“It is time for the Federation to correct this disparity once and for all.”
Even before the World Cup ended, more than 50 members of Congress signed a letter sent by the Democratic Women’s Caucus to U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro expressing disapproval of the “inequities in pay publicity and investment” that the U.S. women’s team faces.
“A woman player’s base salary is approximately $30,000 less than her male counterpart’s,” the letter stated, “and when including bonuses, women’s income is just 38 percent of men’s income.”
A recent analysis by The Washington Post found that gauging disparities in compensation, where there were any, between male and female U.S. national team members was made somewhat complicated by their different salary structures, as determined by separate collective bargaining agreements with the U.S. Soccer Federation. Female players, though, appeared to need to “turn in consistently outstanding performances on the world stage” to keep up in pay with their male counterparts, and there was “still a massive gap between men’s and women’s World Cup bonuses,” The Post wrote.
The U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, held in Russia, and will attempt to make the field for the 2022 tournament, to be held in Qatar. The 2026 installment will be hosted jointly with Canada and Mexico, but the majority of venues are in the United States.
The bill introduced by Manchin would disallow federal funds from supporting any host city, state or local agency participating in World Cup arrangements, until the U.S. Soccer Federation “agrees to provide equitable pay” to its men’s and women’s teams. Federal funds also would be withheld from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, and from the regional body that administers the World Cup qualifying tournament that includes the United States.
Before the World Cup final, FIFA President Gianni Infantino proposed doubling the prize money for the next women’s tournament, in 2023, from $30 million to $60 million. However, that would still be far less than the $440 million allotted for male players in the 2022 World Cup.
The 28 members of the U.S. women’s national team reached a tentative agreement last month to pursue mediation with the U.S. Soccer Federation over the lawsuit. That process was set to unfold after the World Cup ended, with both sides said to be interested in arriving at a resolution without facing off in a courtroom.
In an interview Tuesday on CNN, Rapinoe said that winning the World Cup was “huge for the lawsuit” in terms of swaying even more “public perception to our side” but that the conversation had moved past equal pay, given how her team had proved its worth.
“We don’t want to have this huge, public, nasty fight. That’s not really in the best interest for anyone,” said Rapinoe, a U.S. co-captain. “We would much prefer to have a collaborative approach with FIFA, with the federation. How can we move this forward, how can we go to the next step, to create a world that is equal and fair for everyone?”
Of hearing the “Equal pay!” chants coming from the stands in Lyon, she said: “I think we knew that this win, if we were able to win, was going to be bigger than soccer, but that moment just solidified everything. It was like, this World Cup win is so much more than what was on the field.”