U.S. Soccer, USWNT agree to stop paying NWSL salaries

U.S. Soccer will no longer pay U.S. women's national team allocated players salaries to play in the NWSL, a move that had long been expected but now official.

The U.S. Soccer Federation announced the deal to end the current allocation system on Monday. It also announced a three-month extension to the collective bargaining agreement with the USWNT Players Association (USWNTPA) that was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2021.

The sides came to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that pushes the expiration back to March 31, 2022 "to ensure we had sufficient time to reach an agreement," U.S. Soccer said.

The organization reiterated its plea that the USWNT and U.S. men's national team, whose contract expired in December 2018, to "agree on a path forward that benefits everyone" and prioritize equalizing FIFA prize money.

The USWNT players association said in a statement it is committed to good faith negotiations, "but we will ensure that our players and our fans know when USSF is misrepresenting what is happening in our discussions."

U.S. Soccer no longer to support USWNT salaries

U.S. Soccer will no longer pay the salaries for USWNT stars in the NWS like Mallory Pugh. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
U.S. Soccer will no longer pay the salaries for USWNT stars in the NWS like Mallory Pugh. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The salary allocations are part of the current CBA and will change player movement within the league, an aspect already seen this past year.

U.S. Soccer founded the NWSL in 2012 and up until this year managed and financially supported the league. That included provisions that required USWNT-allocated players to compete in the NWSL.

USWNT players allocated to NWSL clubs were paid up to a $99,000 salary by the federation. It was more than the NWSL's current $52,500 maximum club-paid salary. But it was less than the lucrative deals available in Europe, and the CBA only allowed for a certain number of USWNT players to head overseas. That number was three in 2021.

Top-tier talent will still have higher salaries

The NWSL introduced allocation money ahead of the 2020 season that allows team owners to pay more for stars. But USWNT and Canadian national team players were initially cut out of the deal.

Clubs are now moving USWNT players over to NWSL contracts and using allocation money to pay them more than the standard maximum salary. The Portland Thorns signed Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn directly and the Chicago Red Stars used allocation money to sign four USWNT players, per Jeff Kassouf at The Equalizer.

USWNT players join NWSL union

With all players now signing contracts directly with individual NWSL clubs, they will all be represented under the NWSL Players Association (NWSLPA).

“Dissolving the USSF-supported NWSL Allocation system means that, going forward, USWNT Players will have no restrictions as to the league in which they play club soccer,” the USWNT Players Association said in a statement. “Players who choose the NWSL will sign directly with the NWSL / an NWSL Club and will be employed by the NWSL, therefore becoming members of the NWSLPA.”

USWNT players were formerly only represented by their USWNT union, and were not able to push for change through the NWSL union founded in 2017. This became a glaring concern over the past few months amid the league's coaching scandals.

The NWSLPA is currently negotiating its first CBA with the NWSL. The league is expanding to 12 teams in its 10th season starting early next year with the addition of the San Diego Wave and Angel City FC (Los Angeles). Its expansion draft is set for Thursday and its annual draft for Saturday.