NWSL Players Have Unionized

The vast majority of NWSL players should finally have a seat at the collective bargaining table.

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May 15 2017, 8:08pm

An "overwhelming majority" of the non-allocated National Women's Soccer League players have ratified the formation of a players association, the new entity announced Monday afternoon. Nearly 90 percent of NWSL players have been without union representation since the league began in 2013.

The United States Women's National Team Players Association represents only the 22 players allocated by U.S. Soccer to nine of the NWSL's ten teams (meaning those players' salaries are paid by the federation rather than their teams). NWSL roster sizes range between 18-20 players for each of the ten teams, however, meaning that a large number of players had no way to collectively negotiate decisions about league policies and salaries.

"We are proud to announce the official formation of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Players Association," the mission statement of the NWSLPA reads. "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."

"We respect the players' right to organize and form a players association, and look forward to establishing a relationship with their leadership that will serve the league, the players and our fans alike," the NWSL said in a statement released later that day.

Former WPS player Meghann Burke is the official NWSLPA spokesperson. "Outside of that we don't have any officers elected yet," FC Kansas City's Yael Averbuch told VICE Sports, "but each team has two representatives and I'm a rep for FCKC."

Critically, the new organization notes that both paid players and amateurs will be eligible for representation. NWSL teams often dip into this amateur pool to fill out rosters during big tournaments, but they are at an even greater disadvantage when it comes to ancillary benefits and treatment.

Despite the lack of representation for non-allocated players, minimum and maximum player salaries have increased annually since the league was formed in 2013. The minimum salary was $6,000 back in 2013, and now is $15,000. The maximum for a non-allocated player was $30,000 in 2013, and now is $41,700.

The timing for this news makes sense, though. The national team players just saw a big increase in their compensation when their union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer. The NWSL, meanwhile, received an influx of cash and stability through a three-year deal with Lifetime, which is regularly broadcasting games and whose parent company purchased an equity stake in the league.

Now the players who make up the lifeblood of the league should have a seat at the table when it comes to major economic decisions.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to add a statement from the NWSL in response to the news.