In practice last month in Kansas City ahead of a road game against KC Current, Racing Louisville goaltender Jordyn Bloomer was injured when one of the nets she was standing in front of was injured. reportedly dropped and hit her on the leg.

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Kim Bjorkegren, frustrated head coach of Racing Louisville, complained that the goal did not meet the standard and the quality of the field was lower than expected for a professional team.

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“Honestly, this kind of thing can’t be part of a professional league,” Björkegren said.

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As Racing Louisville forward Nadia Nadim indicatedHowever, this should not have happened under a collective bargaining agreement recently signed between the National Women’s Soccer League and the NWSL Players Association. Article 16.8 obliges the host team to provide visitors with “appropriate training facilities the day before the away game”. It’s not entirely clear what exactly makes an object “suitable”, but it’s likely that the players envisioned targets that were properly placed and wouldn’t harm them, even if it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the CBA.

While this incident was an unusual occurrence—Current’s statement says the field is the same field they’ve provided visitors all season—it serves as a reminder that NWSL’s new CBA is not a panacea for all NWSL ills. .

The league and the players rightly hailed this as a landmark agreement, and it was universally acclaimed for providing players with the economic stability, autonomy and working conditions that professional athletes should expect. what players might want to do differently next time.

By detailing some of the provisions that have been included, as well as those that have not been included, we can see how far the players have come and some of the looming issues that the future CBA will need to address.

What victories did the players get?

Minimal salary

Perhaps the most important achievement for the NWSL Players’ Association, which promoted the “No More Side Actions” campaign in the six months before the new CBA was agreed, was a request to draw attention to the plight of the players who failed to survive. only on their salary—it was a simple act of securing a substantial raise at the bottom of the salary scale. Under the CBA NWSL, the minimum wage has increased by about 60% from $22,000 in 2021 to $35,000 in 2022.

This is a significantly larger initial percentage increase than the 12% boost that MLS players received in their first CBA in 2004. In addition, NWSL players will now receive competition entry bonuses and 401(k) contributions. While $35,000 plus bonuses and pension contributions is still far below the current MLS minimum wage of $84,000 for senior players and $65,500 for reservists, it is a big step in establishing economic independence for players.

Guaranteed contracts and severance pay

An important aspect of economic stability is guaranteed contracts or some form of severance pay in the event of a player being fired mid-season. Under the CBA NWSL, players are allowed to enter into guaranteed contracts, as is the case with Major League Baseball and the WNBA, but they are not automatically guaranteed for players of a certain age and length of service, as in MLS.

This makes severance pay more important, and the NWSLPA has negotiated a four-week severance pay, team housing or housing allowance, and insurance premiums. Obviously, expanding access to fully guaranteed contracts would be better for players, but offering monthly transition fees and perks is a good second-best alternative.

free agency

Perhaps the most notable achievement of the players was the acquisition of free will. Starting in 2023, players with six years of league experience (down from five years in 2024) can move to any league team at the end of their contract. In 2024, players who have been with the NWSL for at least three years can enter restricted agency at the end of their contract, giving their existing teams the option to qualify for any offers.

Free will has always been a difficult concept for single-organization leagues such as the NWSL and MLS. In a single institution, the league, not the team, is the player’s employer, and allowing teams to bet against each other for players under free agency undermines the cost containment benefits associated with operating as a single entity employer.

MLS players did not receive free agency until the third CBA in 2015, and at that time it was only for players aged 28 and over with eight years of service (which subsequently dropped to 24 years and five years of service at the 2020 CBA). Not only did NWSL players get free agency in their first CBA, but unlike MLS, free agency gains are unlimited (with the possible exception of a salary cap, discussed below).

Health and wellness

While most professional sports leagues offer health and wellness benefits to their players, NWSL players clearly prioritized this element and received some benefits beyond what more established leagues provide.

For example, while most leagues provide mental health benefits, the NWSL has agreed to provide players with up to six months of paid time off (less workers’ compensation or disability benefits) if recommended by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. The players have also agreed to a one-week off-season break from June 1 to September 1, which is similar to an informal mental and physical health break. Even the National Football League, which has one of the most complete CBAs, only grants players four days off in a row during the team bye week.

What unresolved issues will worry future CBAs?

Wage squeeze

The NWSL CBA did not ignore players who were already paid more than the minimum in 2021, but their raises are less than what is required for players on the minimum wage. This means that the gap between players’ salaries will narrow, as shown by the comparison table, which starts at the minimum wage and works its way up from there.

This wage cut will increase in subsequent years because while the minimum wage will increase by 4% annually for the duration of the deal until 2026, other wages will only rise by 2.5% and only for the duration of their current contracts. Veteran players may become unhappy if the gap between their salaries and the league minimum narrows.

Pay cap / team pay budget

The management rights section of the CBA expressly reserves the right for the NWSL to make decisions regarding player and team wage budgets. The league must notify the NWSLPA of “the amount of the annual salary cap and any salary cap rules and/or any rules affecting the allocation of money”, but the amount of the ceiling is left to the league’s discretion. It is a rarity.

CBAs in American professional sports leagues that have a salary cap usually include a detailed discussion of the cap.

Some leagues such as the WNBA, MLS, and United Soccer League that use a set dollar amount have an annual salary cap for the duration of the agreement, usually starting at the set amount and allowing for an annual percentage increase. Others, such as the NFL, NBA, and NHL, who calculate their cap with an income-based formula, have many pages describing how the formula works, what income will be included, and how those numbers will be verified. Even Major League Baseball, which has no salary cap, discusses its competitive balance tax in its CBA, which applies to teams that spend more than a certain threshold.

There are at least two reasons why a salary cap (plus a minimum spending requirement) is usually negotiated by the Central Bank. For the players, this prevents the leagues from artificially holding back wage growth and pocketing profits. For the league, this ensures that it is covered by an exemption under federal labor laws for what could otherwise be construed as an agreement between the league and its teams to cap wages in violation of antitrust laws.

Perhaps, based on the final wording of the CBA, neither the NWSL nor the players are particularly concerned about these issues. Players can take some comfort in the fact that even without the CBA and without the NWSL making a profit, the salary cap has risen modestly every year since the league’s inception. In addition, the players have agreed to some protection for themselves in the form of a requirement under the CBA that the league will pay 10% of media and broadcast revenues to compensate players starting in the third year of the agreement if the league becomes profitable.

Likewise, since the league has been unilaterally setting wage budgets for years and may be planning to continue with annual increases in line with its previous practices and those agreed for minimum wages, it may not be bothered by an antitrust lawsuit. What’s more, while an agreed wage budget or an explicit waiver of the right to negotiate by players may be safer, it may be convenient for the league that it will still seek antitrust exemption. A 2019 ruling passed by the National Labor Relations Board eased the requirement for management to take unilateral action and still comply with federal labor laws, though this new standard is currently being contested.

However, as the league grows and discretionary funds allocated to player compensation increase, it seems likely that players will want to at least set a minimum level for salary budgets rather than leaving it entirely up to the league, and the league may prefer legal certainty. in the agreed number. Not only will this allow players to maximize their value as free agents and help solve the problem of wage cuts, but it could also help the NWSL mediate between groups of team owners with different ambitions as the league competes with other nations for players.

For now, however, NWSL players will focus on enforcing the CBA they have and determining if all of the provisions are in…