(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

 

It seems like every four years we go through this. The US Women’s National Team will participate in the Women’s World Cup. Then there will be days or weeks of bitching and moaning about how the male players get paid so much more than the women players. You’ll hear commentators talk about Abby Wambach’s 184 goals making her the highest scoring player in international competition, male or female, as though the sport Wambach plays is the same as men’s soccer. Don’t fool yourself. It isn’t. If it was the the same, then Wambach and the rest of the sisterhood wold be suiting up for Arsenal or Real Madrid or Juventus or Bayern FC and they would be getting paid the same as the men.

The fact is, that US women soccer players get paid just about the same as the US men players. The difference comes during World Cup where players get a share of the revenue and, quite honestly, outside a handful of Western countries absolutely no one cares about women’s soccer. (See this for the revenue disparity explanation..) One might even say the US men get paid less than the women because there is zero chance of a US men’s team getting withing sniffing distance of a World Cup championship.

But none of this has stopped politicians from tripping over themselves in an effort to ingratiate themselves to the economic illiterates who fancy that this pay gap is a function of misogyny and not of market forces.

Perhaps the best response came from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin:

West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin announced a bill Tuesday to withhold federal dollars for the men’s World Cup unless the U.S. women’s national soccer team receives pay equity.

Manchin’s proposed bill would deny federal funding for the men’s 2026 FIFA tournament, which the U.S. will co-host along with Canada and Mexico, unless there’s equal pay between both the men’s and women’s soccer teams.

“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,” Senator Manchin said. “They are the best in the world and deserve to be paid accordingly.”

While this proposal is counterfactual and stupid, there is at least one good reason to get behind it. There is no way the US Soccer governing body can fork over this kind of cash for a sport that has very little commercial appeal, so, inadvertently, it could very well end up doing to men’s soccer what Title IX did to wrestling, swimming, and track and field.

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