NWSL, players agree to first-ever collective barganing agreement

Fans express their support for players during the first half of an NWSL soccer match between the North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville FC in Cary last season (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association said Monday night it has agreed to its first-ever collective bargaining agreement.

The CBA must still be approved by the NWSL’s Board of Governors, but it comes as players are expected to report to team training camps Tuesday. The NWSL is embarking on its 10th season as the top women’s professional league in the United States and two new teams, Angel City and the San Diego Wave, are joining the league.

The CBA runs through the 2026 season. Among the provisions is a minimum salary of $35,000 — a nearly 60% increase — with 4% yearly raises. All players will see increased salaries, retirement fund contributions, life and health insurance and housing.

“From our inception, the players association has put players first. Our mission in this historic CBA was to put this same philosophy at the center of NWSL’s future,” NWSLPA President Tory Huster said in a statement. “With the amount of care and attention that we have given this process since fall 2020, we are proud that players can confidently enter the 10th season in the NWSL in a better position than ever before.”

The contract also allows for free agency starting in 2023 for players with a minimum of six years, and drops to a minimum of five years in 2024.

The agreement includes eight weeks of parental leave and up to six months in paid mental health leave, as well as provisions for safe playing fields and medical staffs. The union said it would make the entire agreement public in coming weeks.

NWSL interim CEO Marla Messing said the agreement reflects the league’s commitment to its players.

“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,” Messing said.

The labor agreement comes following a turbulent year.

Last September, two former NWSL players came forward to accuse longtime coach Paul Riley, then with the North Carolina Courage, of harassment and sexual coercion. He was fired and the NWSL commissioner stepped down in the wake of the accusations.

In all, five coaches were dismissed or stepped down amid reports of inappropriate behavior.

Players suggested that without a CBA they might not report to teams for training camps.