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NWSL’s free agency pool doubles as NWSLPA wins arbitration case

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The status of 22 NWSL players had been in dispute since the start of the league’s first-ever free agency period in August.

Those 22 players are now free agents after an independent arbitrator ruled in favor of the NWSL Players Association, the NWSL and NWSLPA announced Monday. They join 26 players who already were eligible as part of the league’s first free agency class.

Among the players who now have become free agents are OL Reign defender Lauren Barnes, Portland Thorns forward Christine Sinclair, Angel City FC forward Jasmyne Spencer and Gotham FC midfielder McCall Zerboni. All have played in the league since its inception in 2013.

Other players include North Carolina Courage star and MVP candidate Debinha and OL Reign forward and USWNT star Tobin Heath.

The NWSL and NWSLPA had been at odds over the interpretation of the free agency section of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.

The NWSL argued that any player with a pending option year on their contract was not eligible unless that option was declined by their team, and that teams had until Nov. 15 to make that decision. The NWSLPA argued that all players with at least six years of service and an expiring contract were eligible.

“I am proud of the manner in which the parties used the arbitration procedure,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement. “This was an honest and respectful disagreement, and we utilized the dispute resolution mechanism in our collective bargaining agreement which is fair and impartial. Thanks to our labor agreement all parties can make their case to an independent and neutral third-party and respect the decision.”

Free agency will expand next summer, with all players with at least five years of service in the league becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency. Players with at least three years of service will be restricted free agents.