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NWSL, Players Association ratify first-ever CBA

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The NWSL Players Association announced Monday that the union, in conjunction with the NWSL, has ratified the league’s first collective bargaining agreement. The news comes on the eve of NWSL preseason, with players expected to report to camps on Tuesday.

The CBA is still “subject to approval by the NWSL Board of Governors,” according to the statement released by the PA. A source told The Athletic that the final terms would likely be approved during the day on Tuesday. Additionally, the source said that the terms of the CBA have previously been agreed to. The final vote that takes place will be centered around the final language of the document.

Players had threatened a work stoppage if there was not a CBA in place by the time preseason began on Feb. 1. In a statement, the NWSLPA said that “players will report to preseason camp tomorrow with the safety, security, and protections” of the new CBA.

“From our inception, the Players Association has put players first,” said NWSL President Tori Huster. “Our mission in this historic CBA was to put this same philosophy at the center of NWSL’s future.”

Included in the CBA is a 160% increase in the league’s minimum salary to $35,000. Year over year, the minimum salary will increase by 4%. Players making above the league minimum will see step-ladder increases.

Additionally, a 401K plan will be implemented in 2023 with the league matching contributions. There will also be minimum standards for housing stipends.

A major point of contention was free agency. In their statement, the NWSLPA said that free agency will begin in 2023, starting with players who have been in the league for at least six years. From there, in 2024, those with three years in the league will become eligible for restricted free agency and those with five years in the league will receive full free agency.

Waived players will receive four weeks of severance pay and 30 days of housing and health insurance.

According to the NWSL, the league will commit between $255,000 and $300,000 to group licensing, another sticking point in negotiations.

Other major points of the CBA include up to six months of paid mental health leave, eight weeks of paid parental leave for birth or adoption and “no more playing on fields that require substantial conversion to the dimensions of a soccer field.”

“The strength, resilience, and solidarity of this extraordinary group of players and people is what secured this landmark agreement,” said NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke. “Players drove every decision in this process. Over more than 40 bargaining sessions, these players stood strong and stood together, right up to the moment of ratification.”

According to the league, the CBA will last for five years and run through the 2026 season.

“This historic agreement formalizes a partnership between owners, front offices and players that is absolutely critical for our league’s long-term growth and success,” said Ed Nalbandian, NJ/NY Gotham FC Owner and Vice-Chair. “I want to thank the players and NWSLPA Executive Director Meghann Burke for the partnership they’ve exhibited in negotiating an agreement that prioritizes player safety, club accountability, and the financial well-being of our players and league. We’re all in this together, and I want to thank my fellow owners for committing the resources that our players so richly deserve.”