The bulk of discussion between WUSA officials and the Players Association during months of negotiations for the Collective Bargaining Agreement concerned how best to trim expenditures and increase revenues. The league, continuing to battle against a difficult economy, had cut budgets in every department but one. Until now.
The WUSA's ''Founding'' players, stake-holders in the league who are entering the third year of five-year guaranteed contracts, agreed to take pay cuts of 25 percent or more for 2003 as the league salary cap was trimmed to $595,750.
The cap covers salaries for 16 players, all signed to Standard Player Contracts (SPCs), on each roster. ''Reserve'' and ''developmental'' players, two apiece, are paid from another fund.
The cap in Year 1 was $800,000 for 20 players, an average of $40,000 per player. Last year's cap was $834,500 for 18 players, an average of $46,361. This year's average salary is pennies under $37,235, a drop of nearly 20 percent from 2002. Players also can earn individual and team incentive bonuses.
Total WUSA pay for SPC players is $4.766 million. The league spent $6.4 million in 2001 and $6.676 million in 2002 on player salaries.
Player contracts also have been reduced from 12 to nine months, covering March 1 to Nov. 30.
The minimum salary for first-year ($25,000), second-year ($26,250) and third-year ($31,500) remains unchanged. First-round draft choices still earn a minimum $30,000.
The ''Founding'' players made the greatest sacrifice, agreeing to take pay cuts from $85,000 and $80,000 to $60,000.
Teams submitted 16-player rosters, plus two ''reserves,'' on Monday; two ''developmental'' players will be added to rosters by Tuesday. ''Reserves,'' once announced, may be offered an SPC by another team. They may accept it or remain with their club as a ''reserve.''
New York has been awarded a third ''reserve'' because injured midfielder Sara Whalen is out for the season, but the Power will be permitted only one ''developmental'' player.
Salaries for ''reserve'' and ''developmental'' players are higher than ''reserve'' salaries were in 2001, Commissioner Tony DiCicco said. He wouldn't offer specifics but said ''reserves'' were being compensated ''more than 25 percent more'' than last season. Pay for ''developmental'' players, he said, was 5 to 10 percent above what ''reserves'' made last year.
Teams may suit up 18 players for home games and 16 for road contests. ''Developmental'' field players may see action only if the number of available players fall below 18 and 16. Teams may, but don't have to, use a ''developmental'' slot on a third goalkeeper, who would be eligible to play whenever one of the other goalkeepers was unavailable. Teams without a third goalkeeper will be allowed to bring in a ''supplemental'' player from the W-League or WPSL when the need arises.
''Supplemental'' field players from the W-League and WPSL also can be added to rosters when numbers fall below 16 or 18. The exceptions are players with remaining NCAA eligibility and forward Missy Gregg, who is expected to play for Hampton Roads Piranhas in the W-League once she has fully recovered from a knee injury. Washington, which drafted Gregg in February, maintains her rights until next year. The Freedom would be permitted to bring in Gregg as a ''supplemental,'' but no other team could.
Note: The preceding is an excerpt from ''The Women's Insider,'' a weekly e-letter available to Soccer America subscribers.