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Senate Democrats threaten to block 2026 World Cup funds unless women's soccer team get equal pay

A group of Senate Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday that intends to block funding for the 2026 World Cup unless the U.S. women’s national soccer team receives equal pay.

The bill, dubbed the Give Our Athletes Level Salaries (GOALS) Act, calls for prohibiting “the use of funds for the 2026 World Cup unless the United States Soccer Federation provides equitable pay to the members of the United States Women’s National Team and the United States Men’s National Team.”

The Washington Post reported in 2019 that a player on the women's team would learn about 89 percent of the compensation of a similarly situated men's team player.

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The push for equal pay for the national women's team was first sparked after the team secured its fourth World Cup victory in 2019.

Following the win, team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said "it's time for action" to secure equal pay for her and her female teammates.

President BidenJoe BidenJapan to possibly ease COVID-19 restrictions before Olympics 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday China supplies millions of vaccine doses to developing nations in Asia MORE at the time called for equal pay for the team on the campaign trail, writing in a tweet “As we cheer them on in the World Cup, we must support their fight off the field for equal pay.”

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Biden marked Equal Pay Day at the White House this year alongside players Rapinoe and Margaret Purce, calling for equal pay for women in all fields and for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which aimed to address pay inequality in the nation.

The legislation passed through the House in April, 217-210, but was blocked by Senate Republicans on Tuesday. Lawmakers voted 49-50 in an attempt to advance the bill, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the legislative filibuster.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Manchin meets with Texas lawmakers on voting rights Schumer tees up sweeping election bill for vote next week MORE (D-W.Va.), who introduced the GOALS Act along with Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Democrats threaten to block 2026 World Cup funds unless women's soccer team get equal pay Senate confirms Biden's top scientist Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday MORE (D-Wash.), noted that while federal funds are not directly allocated to U.S. soccer, there are a number of other ways the organization and its affiliates, including FIFA and CONCACAF, will likely use federal funds for the World Cup.

The senators said that if the bill is enacted and the women's team is not given equal pay, funds provided to host cities, participating local and state organizations, the U.S. Soccer Federation, CONCACAF and FIFA will be blocked.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico are jointly hosting the World Cup in 2026.

“The American athletes representing our country on the worldwide stage must be compensated equally — because a gold medal is a gold medal and a World Cup is a World Cup, no matter your gender,” Cantwell said in a statement.

“The U.S. Women’s National Soccer team elevated this issue into the national conversation, but it impacts top athletes in every sport. Let’s start to right this wrong and get this done this Congress,” she added.

All 28 players on the women's team in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination, alleging that the unfair treatment affected their paychecks, in addition to where and how often they play, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive and how they travel to matches, according to The New York Times.

A federal judge, however, ruled last May that the team did not have enough evidence to bring to trial its claims that its players are receiving unequal pay.

Manchin introduced a similar bill in 2019, threatening to withhold federal funds for the 2026 World Cup unless the team was given equal pay. He said he introduced the legislation after receiving a letter from West Virginia University’s women’s soccer head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, urging him to support the women's national team as it worked to get the same pay as men.

The Hill reached out to the U.S. women’s national team for comment.