Health benefits

Football: NWSL and union agree to higher wages, free agency and health benefits

North Carolina Courage forward Lynn Williams and other National Women’s Soccer League players will receive higher salaries and additional benefits under a new collective bargaining agreement. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Courage

February 1 (UPI) — National Women’s Soccer League players will receive higher wages and be introduced to free agency for the first time under a new labor agreement, the 10-team league and players’ union announced.

The NWSL and NWSL Players Association announced their first-ever collective bargaining agreement Monday night. The pact runs through the 2026 season. NWSL owners plan to commit nearly $100 million over the term of the deal.

“This is a historic moment for women’s soccer in the United States,” NWSL acting CEO Marla Messing said in a press release.

“This transformative agreement represents deserved progress for our players, including significantly stronger pay and benefits, improved training and playing environments, and a long-term commitment to continually improving the standards we all believe are essential to secure our position as the best women’s football league in the world.”

The league plans to raise minimum player salaries by nearly 60%, to $35,000, with increases of 4% each year. The previous minimum wage was $22,000.

Players will receive increased tiers of free housing, transportation, health insurance, and more. The average total player compensation is expected to increase to $54,000 during the 2021 season.

The agreement also includes up to six months paid leave for mental health reasons. Players will also get 42 days of vacation and a seven-day break during the summer of each season.

The players’ union began negotiations with the league in March. More than 30 players participated in these discussions.

“We bought our team a year ago and we’re committed to delivering for our players, our club and our city,” Kansas City Current co-owner Angie Long said. “This collective agreement represents a league-wide partnership between owners and players to achieve our shared mission of building the greatest league in the world.”

The NWSL enters its 10th season with the 2022 Challenge Cup tournament, which runs from March 19 to May 7. The NWSSL title match will take place the weekend of October 28.