The National Women's Soccer League and the NWSL players association made history on the eve of the start of preseason by announcing that two sides ratified its first-ever collective bargaining agreement which extends until 2026. The board of governors is expected to vote as early as Tuesday. Some of the notable victories for the union includes 160% increase to minimum salaries, 4% year-over-year increases and free agency within the league.
The primary terms of the CBA are projected to require an additional incremental investment by NWSL owners of nearly $100 million and include raising the minimum salary to $35,000 along with an increase in player salaries. The agreement will also provide free housing, transportation, fully-vested 401(k) contributions, health, life and disability insurance. Additionally, eight weeks of parental leave -- whether for birth or adoption -- and up to six months of mental health leave. It will also include a share of net broadcast revenues if the league is profitable in the third, fourth or fifth year of the newly negotiated CBA.
Free agency, a longtime point of contention for NWSL players, with the market opening in 2023 for players with six years of service time in the league. In 2024, players with five years of service time will be eligible for free agency and players with three years will be eligible for restricted free agency.
"Tonight, the NWSL Players Association ratified the first-ever collective bargaining agreement in NWSL history," read the statement.
"Subject to approval by the NWSL board of governors, players will report to preseason camp tomorrow with the safety, security, and protections of a collectively bargained contract that sets NWSL on a positive trajectory for the future."
Interim NWSL CEO Marla Messing issued the following statement on behalf of the league:
"This is a historic moment for women's soccer in the United States. This transformative agreement represents deserved advancements for our players, including significantly stronger compensation packages and benefits, enhanced training and playing environments, and a long-term commitment to continually improve the standards we all regard as essential to securing our position as the best women's soccer league in the world. Our owners are committed to providing the significant and unprecedented investment required to build and sustain a professional women's soccer league that properly supports our players, both as professional soccer players and as individuals. We thank the NWSLPA leadership and the players for their thoughtful approach on the CBA and look forward to continuing to collaborate with them to create the best environment for our players to succeed."
This is a landmark deal and the first of its kind set in place for a professional women's domestic soccer league. What the two sides agreed to on Monday could mark a a new era of women's soccer, one that would make this league look completely different moving forward following generational growing pains throughout multiple attempts to establish a league in this country.
A four-week severance pay with 30 days of housing and health insurance will also be included for waived players -- a huge victory for players, considering years with no CBA meant players ousted with little to no notice in past seasons.
There is much to be celebrated whenever it comes to a historical "first," but the new contract in place comes with more than celebrations, it comes with both joy and sadness, but also with a heavy sigh of relief. After a 2021 that has been viewed in hindsight as a reckoning for the league, the possibility of a failed negotiation lingered and players holding out of preseason on Feb. 1 seemed likely. The late-night deal in place signals the 2022 calendar year for the league will commence as schedule.
The pro leagues of the past paved way for this current league to exist today -- the Women's Professional Soccer (2007-12) and Women's United Soccer Association (2001-03) specifically come to mind. And as the NWSL approaches the 10th anniversary from when it was originally founded (Nov. 21, 2012), it's worth reflecting that in its near-decade-long existence, the league became a place where poor working and playing conditions still existed out of fear of the same conclusion the past -- a failed and folded league. The CBA was a necessity and the efforts to get a historic contract in place was generations in the making, and it could not have come to light without efforts and investment.