The World Cup is the most important sporting event next to the Olympics. In terms of history, difficulty and importance, only a few championships can match a World Cup. In 2026, the privilege of hosting the event will be awarded to three countries: Canada, Mexico and the United States.
However, Senate Democrats are threatening to torpedo the bid by introducing a Bill demanding equal pay between the women’s and men’s national soccer teams. Otherwise, they will block funding for the Cup.
The bill, called Give Our Athletes Level Salaries (GOALS), curiously pushed by Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is one of the more moderate Democrats in the House, provides for a ban on the “use of funds for the 2026 World Cup unless the United States Soccer Federation provides equal pay to members of the United States Women’s National Team and States Men’s National Team.”
Despite the threat, the risk of passage is implausible, as the bill does not delve into the full context of the public debate regarding equal pay in soccer and, moreover, it would take 60 votes to break the filibuster. Overall, it is a bill with very vague language, barely a couple of paragraphs. However, it is most unlikely that the majority leader, New York Democrat Charles Ellis Schumer, will put the bill on the Senate floor since it is not a very relevant issue either.
Beyond the bill – Democrats regardless of their political leanings – joined unanimously with the women’s team calling for equal pay among national teams. However, there are some facts and arguments that cast doubt on the claim that unequal pay is a form of gender-based injustice.
Threatening the 2026 World Cup as a political ploy
In the public arena, Democratic politicians have pushed the narrative that the wage differentials were abysmal and totally unfair because the women’s national team maintains a much higher standard than the men’s national team.
However, no politician to date attempted to delve deeper into the characteristics of each category or tournament. For example, there was a tendency to equate a men’s World Cup with a women’s World Cup, but the men’s World Cup has a much longer history, and the diffcutly and signifcance of the tournament is much greater than the women’s World Cup. The political debate never got to this point, nor did it get to how international organizations handle each competition financially.
“Here’s an idea: if you win 13-0 -the most goals for a single game in World Cup history- you should get at least the same pay as the men’s team. Congrats,#USWNT!” wrote Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand superficially in 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren also joined the chorus when she tweeted in the same year that the “@USWNT is #1 in the world and brings in more revenue for @USSoccer than the men’s team, but they are still paid a fraction of what the men make. Women deserve equal pay for equal (or better!) work in offices, factories and on the soccer field.”
For the past few years, the political debate about equal pay in soccer has intensified, but with superficial arguments and squalid legislation like that of Senator Joe Manchin. Apparently, supporting the women’s national team is just another form of identity politics.
The Washington Post fact-checkers did an analysis of which national team produces the most money. The issue, in a nutshell, is very relative and hard to pin down.
“Sponsorships grew nearly 50 % between fiscal 2014 and 2015 when the men’s national team last played in a World Cup. They grew another 25% between fiscal 2015 and 2016, when the women won the 2015 World Cup, to around $45 million. Revenue from sponsorship has remained constant – between $44 million and $48 million per year – since then,” the media outlet pointed out
There are some details that exemplify why the salary issue is not a matter of gender injustice. For example, women’s team players are on a fixed salary, while international players for the United States must be called up in order to be paid money to defend their National Team’s colors.
In bonuses and awards, the players get advantages over the women’s team players. But, according to the WaPo, that can be measured in other ways:
“The teams play different numbers of games each year and earn different bonuses depending on the game type, their opponents’ FIFA rank and the game’s outcome. On top of that, both teams can earn additional bonuses for winning specific tournaments. And certain events, such as the World Cup, have a separate bonus structure entirely”.Do U.S. soccer players earn more than women? The WaPo took a much more comprehensive look that went beyond political talking points
There are already 20 USA women’s team players filed a lawsuit in 2019 against the country’s soccer federation for gender discrimination. They alleged differences in pay, medical care, coaching and logistics. However, a federal judge in May 2020 determined that these players did not have sufficient proof of the allegations.