USWNT’s NWSL salaries no longer paid by US Soccer

USWNT players lined up before game against Australia (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
USWNT players lined up before game against Australia (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /
USWNT players will now have considerably more freedom to choose where they play. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

Times are changing and the needs and interests of the players are being put first. It’s an exciting and liberating time for the players and an unstable, but hopeful, time for the league.

Professional women’s soccer leagues in the United States have historically floundered before ultimately folding completely.

When the NWSL was formed back in 2012, the league hoped to solve at least part of the failing system by having the US, Canadian and Mexican national teams pay the league salaries of their core players. These players would be allocated in twos and threes to the various teams throughout the league.

This payment and allocation system meant that the league held on to its brightest stars while also not having to shoulder the financial burden of keeping them around. It helped kickstart the league and seemed to be a sound plan at the time.

The system proved detrimental to USWNT players

The problem was that the USWNT players were more or less held captive. They had no choice but to play in the NWSL.

In fact, their future on the USWNT seemed to depend on their willingness to stay. Venturing to clubs outside of the United States was frowned upon and as other leagues began to flourish, the pressure to stay local became increasingly limiting and oppressive.

The USWNT and the NWSL are entering periods of significant and necessary change. Allegations of misconduct, sexual and otherwise, throughout the league have led to a significant overhaul of leadership personnel in the NWSL. Meanwhile, the USWNT has continued a long fight for equal pay.

The recent decision to free USWNT players from the grip of the US Soccer Federation when it comes to their club season is the latest in an effort to give power to the players.

With Vlatko Andonovski as head coach, USWNT players were already beginning to feel an increasing freedom to play abroad if that’s what was best for them at that time in their lives and careers. Catarina Macario (Lyon) and Tobin Heath (Arsenal) are two prime examples of this shift.

With their clubs now in charge of their contracts and salaries, the USWNT players can seek out any club they like and can potentially earn more money as the NWSL will have to match the salaries of European leagues if they want to keep their best local talent at home.

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Without the USSF’s financial backing that they’ve needed and relied on for so long, the NWSL’s stability will be tested. It’s an opportunity for growth and progress, but the road to get there is anything but certain.