NWSL: Players take first step toward union recognition

Non-allocated players in the National Women’s Soccer League -- players whose contracts aren't funded by U.S. Soccer or the Canadian Soccer Association -- ratified the formation of the NWSL Players Association by an overwhelming majority.

The NWSL is unique in that it has several class of players: U.S. national team players represented by their own players association, a smaller group of Canadian national team players, and non-allocated players. NWSL teams also use amateur players to fill out their teams during roster shortages (primarily due to international call-ups).

Pay and working conditions of NWSL players have been an issue in the young league. In 2017, the team salary cap for non-allocated players is only $315,000 and the maximum salary is $41,700. The minimum salary was more than doubled to ... $15,000.

The NWSL attracts almost all the top American players but retaining them in the long term is an issue because of the low pay. FC Kansas City, for one, won back-to-back NWSL titles in 2014 and 2015 but its roster has been depleted because of retirements: defenders Leigh Ann Brown and Amy LePeilbet and midfielder Lauren Holiday after the 2015 season, Jen Buczkowski in May 2016 and Frances Silva after the 2016 season.

The next step will be for the NWSL to recognize the players association. If the league chooses not to, the players association will have to petition the National Labor Relations Board for recognition and the right to bargain over pay and working conditions.

Several labor law issues arise, given the unique nature of how NWSL teams form their rosters. What's the appropriate bargaining unit for NWSL players among the allocated and non-allocated players? Does the NLRB consider amateur players "employees" for the purposes of including them in the players association? Should those amateur players -- periodic fill-ins -- be paid?

The spokesperson for the NWSL Players Association is former WUSA and WPS player Meghann Burke, an attorney at law firm Brazil & Burke, based in Asheville, North Carolina.

The NWSL Players Association issued the following statement:

“We are proud to announce the official formation of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Players Association. We, the Non-Allocated Players of NWSL, vow to build on the opportunity that has been afforded to us, as well as work to achieve those goals that have not yet been attained. We honor the vision and progress of those who came before us...Pledge to work with the League and Allocated Players to advance continued improvements in women's soccer...Commit ourselves to doing all in our power for the betterment of our members so that we may best contribute to the common goal: a world-class product on the field, and to be role models and inspire the next generation off the field.”

"Membership in the Association is limited to all active, Non-Allocated Players in the NWSL, including all amateur players currently on NWSL rosters. Allocated NWSL players are not included because they are separately represented by associations set up under the auspices of their respective national teams.  However, the Association will work with those players to achieve goals common to all players in the NWSL and women’s soccer in general.

"The formation of the Association is a first and important step toward forming an official players union for Non-Allocated NWSL players.  In addition to serving as the voice of the Non-Allocated Player pool, the Association will strive to build a collaborative working relationship with the NWSL Front Office and will work to improve communication among all players.
4 comments about "NWSL: Players take first step toward union recognition".
  1. Nick Daverese, May 16, 2017 at 8:33 a.m.

    Here is when a union is bad. I used to love hostess cup cakes. They tried to unionize the company said they could not afford it. They struck against the company. The company went out of business all their employees were let go. Some time later someone bought the company name reopened it in a non union state with all different employees. Now their open again, but the cup cakes are smaller and they don't taste the same.
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    unless the product is a good product so they can charge more for tickets and people well pay it. If the people don't think the product is worth the money then the league will go out of business. Then the players will just be doing clinic for young players for peanuts.

  2. Ben Myers, May 16, 2017 at 10:53 a.m.

    Minimum salary $15000? Pathetic! How can a woman afford to play in the NWSL. Ridiculous. Below minimum wage.

  3. Nick Daverese, May 16, 2017 at 7:15 p.m.

    What you can't live on a 150 k a season? Remember they are not playing the whole year. What minimum wage again? It's not 150 thousand a year.

  4. Nick Daverese, May 17, 2017 at 11:41 a.m.

    Did he mean 15 thousand that is bad.if true. When the MLS started it was somewhere in the 27 thousand dollar range range.

    In American professional football at that time you saw all pro players waiting tables.

    In the 1940s good money was considered 10 thousand a year. You would be in the upper middle class.

    In the 40s you could pay your rent on 25 a mouth. A good raise was 20 cents an hour.

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