Two news items over the past few days may seem only tangentially related. But collectively, they will set the terms for how much women’s soccer players in this country earn for playing, both for club and country, along with working conditions in the years to come.
The first came on April 8, when the National Women’s Soccer League and the league’s Players Association, headed by Meghann Burke, announced the two sides were entering into collective bargaining agreement talks.
“The sustainability of our League is inextricably linked to the stability of players’ careers,” NWSLPA Executive Director Meghann Burke said in a statement. “Through this CBA, we seek to secure stability, equity, and longevity of a playing career in NWSL for all players.”
That the two sides would be working together to find a pathway on these issues is a significant step forward for players who aren’t in the national team pool. While the minimum and maximum salaries have increased in each of the NWSL seasons, the salaries as a whole have often made it difficult for players to remain in professional soccer for the duration of what would be their peak seasons, with early retirements a normal course of events for many. A minimum salary of $20,000 in 2020 is better than, for instance, $6,600 back in 2013, but it still means there’s a long way to go.
And so it cannot have escaped the notice of the players that seemingly every week, another NWSL team announced new high-profile investors, with a significant amount of additional capital that the players understandably want to share in.
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“I’m not going to comment on financials at this point because we’re going to be discussing all of that with the players,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said during a call with media last week. “That aside, I think it is a good time to do a CBA… I think this can be a historic moment… We want a new CBA that sets the standard for women’s sports, but it’s also got to be beneficial and sustainable for both sides.”
While the NWSL negotiates with players, the USWNT Players Association got the green light to move to its next phase of solving the years-long battle with U.S. Soccer over pay dispute. Judge Gary Klausner approved a settlement between the parties on working conditions, clearing the way for the USWNTPA to appeal his ruling on pay structure, one that the statements of the two side indicates is very much a live concern.
“We are pleased that the Court has approved the equal working conditions that the USWNT Players have fought for many years to achieve,” USWNT players’ spokesperson Molly Levinson said in a statement. “Finally, giving these athletes access to facilities, training, care, and professional support is the next step needed in the long and hard work to grow the game of women’s football. Now that this is behind us, we intend to appeal the Court’s equal pay decision, which does not account for the fact that women players have been paid at lesser rates than men who do the same job.”
U.S. Soccer, meanwhile, maintains that “we have offered the USWNT the identical compensation provided to our men’s players for all matches controlled by U.S. Soccer.”
Ultimately, the two sides are likely to find common ground in, that’s right, a new CBA. Their current CBA ends in 2021, setting the stage for new ground rules that can guide the way the signature team for U.S. Soccer is compensated going forward.
Taken together, it is clear that we’ll know much more about what it means to be a women’s soccer player here in the United States by the end of the calendar year.