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The NWSL, NWSLPA agree to a historic first CBA

The CBA will run through the 2026 season.

2020 NWSL Draft Photo by Jose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images

For the first time in history, the NWSL Players Association will have a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NWSL. The Players Association and the league made the announcement this evening that a CBA had been agreed upon by both parties for the next five years, running through 2026, and will probably be ratified after the Board of Governors vote tomorrow (February 1st, 2022).

The agreement, which if not agreed upon by 11:59pm today, would have resulted in a stoppage of play by the players and thus not have any of them report to their teams for pre-season. Now, all players are expected to report with their teams and begin their preparation for the 2022 Challenge Cup and the 2022 NWSL season.

This first ever CBA for the league will include the following:

  • Increased total investment in players: Player salaries will be raised by 60% year-over-year to $35,000 and implementing salary increases for all players (2) total compensation, including salary, free housing, transportation, fully-vested 401(k) contributions, health, life and disability insurance, among other material benefits, raising the average total compensation by more than 30% to $54,000 compared to the 2021 season (3) increases in the numbers of and amounts of player bonuses (4) compensation to players for certain promotional and commercial appearances and (5) revenue sharing, introducing the opportunity for players to receive 10% of the net broadcast revenues, if the league is profitable in years 3, 4, and 5 of the CBA.
  • Introduction of free agency beginning in 2023: that eligibility will include individuals who have six years of service with the NWSL will receive full Free Agency, in 2024, individuals who have three years of service in the NWSL will receive Restricted Free Agency, and in 2024, individuals who have five years of service in the NWSL will receive full Free Agency.
  • Defined season, vacation time and other leave: Players will be ensured a fixed season with start and end windows, as well as limits on the maximum number of games in a season and on the frequency of games. Additionally, players will be guaranteed 42 days of vacation, a seven-day summer break (in season), parental leave for new birth or adoptive parents, leave and salary continuation for pregnant players, and mental health leave for players who need it for up to 6 months.
  • Improved health and wellness benefits: all teams will provide the services of, at minimum, a team physician, massage therapist, sports scientist, sports psychologist, and team clinician to provide mental health services. The league will employ a physician as its Medical Director.
  • Enhanced group license provisions: the league will commit $255,000 - $300,000 per year for group license rights.

The league owners released the following statement through Kansas City Current Co-Owner Angie Long:

“We purchased our team a year ago and have committed to delivering for our players, club, and city. This CBA represents a league-wide partnership between owners and players to deliver on our shared mission of building the greatest league in the world.”

NJ/NY Gotham FC Owner and Vice-Chair Ed Nalbandian also spoke on behalf of the league owners:

“This historic agreement formalizes a partnership between owners, front offices and players that is absolutely critical for our league’s long-term growth and success. I want to thank the players and NWSLPA Executive Director Meghann Burke for the partnership they’ve exhibited in negotiating an agreement that prioritizes player safety, club accountability, and the financial well-being of our players and league. We’re all in this together, and I want to thank my fellow owners for committing the resources that our players so richly deserve. I also want to thank our representatives at the negotiating table, namely Brad Estes, John Walker, and Gotham FC’s own Yael Averbuch, whose expertise and unique perspective proved invaluable.”

Speaking on behalf of the NWSLPA, President Tori Huster had this to say about the CBA:

“From our inception, the Players Association has put the players first. Our mission in this historic CBA was to put this same philosophy at the center of the NWSL’s future. With the amount of attention and care that we have given this process since Fall 2020, we are proud that the players can confidently enter the tenth season of the NWSL in a better position that ever before.”

This CBA is not only historic in nature due to being the first of its kind, it’s also historic because of all the guarantees that have been agreed upon by the league and the NWSLPA as seen above. It’s a starting point for what hopefully will be better CBAs to follow for current and future players.