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Canada women’s soccer will boycott SheBelieves over budget cuts

(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

The Canada women’s national team has gone on strike over budget cuts, equal pay issues and lack of support from Canada Soccer and will boycott the SheBelieves Cup if the issues are not resolved.

The SheBelieves Cup is set to kick off next Thursday. Canada stars Janine Beckie and Christine Sinclair told TSN’s Rick Westhead that the team will not take part in any activities until the issue is resolved.

In a statement on Friday, the players said that they are “outraged and deeply concerned” about the “significant” cuts to both national team programs in 2023. Pointing to the popularity of both teams, they called out Canada Soccer for failing to provide adequate funding for preparation ahead of the World Cup, which begins in six months.

“Now that our World Cup is approaching, the Women’s National Team players are being told to prepare to perform at a world-class level without the same level of support that was received by the Men’s National Team in 2022,” the statement reads. “This is an unacceptable burden to put on the shoulders of our players.”

The players said that they’ve had to cut training camp days, players and staff allotments and limit youth teams’ activities “all while we continue to face immense uncertainty about compensation.”

Additionally, the players said they were told by Canada Soccer that there will not be a send-off game for the team ahead of the World Cup.

“We have been told, quite literally, that Canada Soccer cannot adequately fund the Women’s National Team,” they write, “and they have waited to tell us this until now, when we are less than six months from the World Cup.”

The players association said that if the problems are not fixed, they believe Canada Soccer should consider new leadership.

“If Canada Soccer is not willing or able to support our team, new leadership should be found.,” the statement said. “Despite our strong track record of success and history-making achievements for more than a decade, we continue to be told there is not enough money to adequately fund our program and our youth teams.”

Canada’s men’s national team issued a statement on Friday in support of the women.

“The Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team players are, once again, deeply disappointed by the actions of Canada Soccer, and wholeheartedly support the Women’s National Team players’ statement made this afternoon about completely unsatisfactory preparation conditions for this summer’s World Cup,” they wrote.

In a statement, Canada Soccer said that they will be meeting with the women’s national team in Orlando alongside legal counsel, as had been previously agreed upon.

“Pay equity for our Women’s National Team is at the core of our ongoing player negotiations. Canada Soccer will not agree to any deal without it,” the statement read.

The reigning Olympic gold medalists, Canada is currently ranked sixth in the world and is one of the favorites to win the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.