Rachel Corsie stuck with NWSLPA, and it paid off in historic CBA

Rachel Corsie is still grappling with her unexpected transfer from the Kansas City Current. (Trask Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

It has been quite a week for Rachel Corsie.

When the NWSL and the NWSL Players Association ratified the league’s first-ever CBA earlier this week, it signaled a new era for professional women’s soccer in the U.S. and an emotionally conflicting farewell for Corsie.

The former Kansas City Current defender concluded her run as the NWSLPA’s vice president on Tuesday after the long journey, through many tense rounds of negotiations, toward reaching the CBA. Corsie’s departure was the result of her unceremonious exit from the Current last month.

Kansas City agreed to transfer Corsie to Aston Villa after she was informed “the club no longer wanted me to play for them,” as she wrote in an op-ed for The Press and Journal on Jan. 28. The decision was made even more surprising by Kansas City’s announcement last August that it had extended Corsie’s contract through the 2023 season and named her captain.

“Last year was one of probably my worst experiences to a football capacity,” Corsie told Just Women’s Sports this week, adding that the club had let her down on more occasions than the contract reversal.

The easy option would have been to leave it all behind and start fresh with her new team in the Women’s Super League in Europe.

But Corsie stuck with the NWSLPA, a group that had spent hours and hours on the phone together over the last few months, pushing for their demands in CBA negotiations. This week, on the night of the player vote, she lay sick in bed in her new apartment across the ocean, staying awake into the ungodly hours of the night on the Zoom call.

“Never at any point, when I was going through everything with Kansas City, did I think, ‘Well, I’m just going to forget about the CBA now, because that’s not my issue anymore,’” Corsie said. “Like that was almost the polar opposite of how I felt. It was more, ‘I’m going to stick with the people who are in my corner, who are on my team, who I want.’

“I would do whatever needed to look out for them, and I know that they would do the same for me.”

To Corsie, who joined the NWSLPA three years ago, the experience was like being on a “mini team.” After the Scottish national team captain’s first year as a representative, NWSLPA founder Yael Averbuch West called her to ask if she would take on the role of vice president.

“I just remember feeling really grateful for that opportunity,” Corsie said.

This year, the way players treated her and one another served as motivation to stick with the CBA project, all the way through until the night they put it to a vote.

“[It was] a reminder to myself that this is absolutely something you’re passionate about and that’s absolutely something that you’re going to see through to the end,” she said. “It made you really feel the strength of the player pool, that unity and togetherness, and I think that’s the type of feeling that you’ll remember forever.

“I’ll always remember 2021 as being the year that we worked through the CBA and that we got it through.”

The CBA, announced on Monday night, will usher in a 160 percent increase in minimum salary to $35,000 per year, free agency starting in 2023 for players with a minimum of six service years (2024 for players with five years), eight weeks paid parental leave and up to six months paid mental health leave.

“We know where this league started in 2013 and everything that we have been involved with and gone through,” said USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “So just the fact that we have such an agreement, historical agreement like this makes me happy.”

The players felt they came away with big wins on many components they considered high priorities in the CBA, such as free agency and player movement, Corsie said. That included guarantees like the maternity policy, which can make an impact beyond the soccer community.

When asked for her thoughts on what aspects of the CBA could have been taken further, Corsie pointed to the length of the agreement, which runs for five years through the 2026 season, and teams guaranteeing contract offers.

“I still think that’s a long time. I think that benefited the league, and the Board of Governors’ side of things more than ours,” she said. “I think a contract is a contract so if you sign a piece of paper and the other side signs a piece of paper, I think that should stand.”

Those two factors aside, Corsie and others in the NWSL this week celebrated the “incredible number of wins” in what is a historic moment for women’s soccer in this country.

“It shows that everybody is in it for the long haul and the league is now established — it’s going to be here, ideally, forever,” Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson said on a media call this week. “It’s just going to get stronger and stronger. As the league expands, more teams come in, the quality is just going to go through the roof, and it will be the best league in the world.”

“I’m just really excited for all the players carrying that future,” Corsie said. “I think it’s amazing to have been a part of it.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.