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Pay them: Senate Democrats threaten to stop World Cup funds over equal pay for women's team

Members of the U.S. Women's National Team have fought for years to be paid on par with the men.

More than a dozen Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would prohibit federal funds toward hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup unless the U.S. Soccer Federation equalizes pay between the U.S. men's and women's national teams.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico are jointly hosting the 2026 World Cup. Seventeen U.S. cities have been named as finalists to host matches, with the winners expected to be named by the end of this year.

Players on the U.S. Women's National Team have been fighting for years for pay equality compared to what the men's team earns. Members of the team filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit in 2019. On May 1, a federal judge ruled against the players on several of their claims, including pay discrimination, according to NPR.

While men's soccer tends to be a larger revenue generator, the U.S. women's team has been more successful in competition, winning four FIFA Women's World Cups and four Olympic gold medals. The U.S is the defending Women's World Cup champion and will compete at the Tokyo Olympics next month. The men's team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and for the Olympics.

The bill, called the "Give Our Athletes Level Salaries" (GOALS) Act, states "no Federal funds may be appropriated or otherwise made available to provide support for the 2026 World Cup, including support for a host city, a participating State or local agency, the United States Soccer Federation, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), or the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), until the date on which the United States Soccer Federation agrees to provide equitable pay to the members of the United States Women’s National Team and the United States Men’s National Team."

The bill was introduced by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Maria Cantwell of Washington state, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Mark Warner of Virginia.

As Newsweek reports, Senate Republicans could block the bill by using the filibuster, something they did this week in stopping the Paycheck Fairness Act. Manchin has been a vocal opponent of changing the rules to remove the filibuster.

The 17 finalist host cities for the U.S. are Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Other finalists are Canadian cities Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto and Mexican cities Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey.