NWSL preseason was scheduled to get fully underway around the league on Tuesday, but that was in jeopardy up to Monday night, because the league and the NWSL Players Association have been negotiating for over a year for the league’s first collective bargaining agreement. Fortunately, on Monday both sides announced a deal was done and ratified.
The CBA, the historic first in league history, will run for five years, through the 2026 season, and will increase minimum salaries to $35,000 and instituting salary raises across the board, as well as a retirement plan and more robust material benefits. Waived players will get severance pay and housing and health insurance for 30 days to give them time to transition.
Free agency will finally enter the league in a tangible way, with the system beginning in 2023. That year, players with at least six years of service in the league, and presumably out of contract, will be entitled to unrestricted free agency in the league, which will drop to five years of service in NWSL in 2024. Additionally, players with three years of service in the NWSL in 2024 who are presumably out of contract will be entitled to a restricted free agency system. This change will frankly revolutionize the league.
The CBA also has fully stated provisions for time off for players, including mental health leave and parental leave (birth or adoption), and pregnancy leave and salary continuation for pregnant players. On the other side, the parties agreed to maximum number of games in a season and the frequency of games.
In a sign of the bad old days of the league, the agreement also includes minimum standards at NWSL clubs in terms of medical personnel on staff.
All in all, it sounds like a great deal for the players. The first CBA is an especially big deal, particularly because it’s usually the bedrock for future deals and sets the tone for what is possible. And getting salary increases that are finally approaching standard of living prices around the U.S., to say nothing of the various other benefits, is great to see. Best of all, they averted a player strike to get a deal done, so bring on the 2022 season!
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