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.

Rachel Corsie and Jéssica Silva are headed to Europe, having been transferred from the NWSL’s Kansas City Current. Corsie will head to Aston Villa of the English Super League while Silva heads to Benfica of the Portuguese Campeonato Nacional Feminino.

One of the first players to join Kansas City’s expansion roster from the Utah Royals in 2020, Corsie appeared in 18 games for the club in 2021. The Scottish national team joined the NWSL in 2015 with then-Seattle Reign, making 44 appearances before going on loan to Glasgow City. She later joined the Royals in 2018.

Silva was signed by the Current prior to the beginning of the 2021 regular season. She saw action in 14 games for a total of 548 minutes. The Portuguese forward is no stranger to playing in Europe, having most recently spent time with Olympique Lyonnais before signing with the Current.

Kansas City now has two open international slots that they will look to fill ahead of the season. The 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup is currently slated to kick off March 19.

Silva and Corsie join Portland Thorns’ star Lindsey Horan in heading to the European market. Horan was announced this morning to be joining Lyon until 2023.

Rachel Corsie is a professional soccer player currently playing for Birmingham City FC in the FAWSL while on loan from the Utah Royals in the NWSL. She is also the captain of the Scotland national team.

Are you in lockdown right now? 

Yeah, supposedly, although I would say that it’s fairly loose right now. It’s strange. As footballers, the biggest thing to take from it is that you have a different moral responsibility than the general public. I think there’s a lot of people still bending the rules a little bit. We need to be a little more cautious; If we bend the rules, we’re probably scrutinized more heavily.

I know you said you have to be more careful, but how else does the lockdown impact training and games? Do you have to do more testing or what does that look like?

They have a fairly comprehensive testing regime across the league. You’re tested typically once a week, but that will be increased if you have more than one game a week. It really ensures that people are following the rest of the protocols. I think there’s more work done behind the scenes that we don’t see, because a lot of the clubs now are affiliated with their men’s team, and you need to be careful. With teams overlapping, arriving at the same time using the same facilities, you need to make sure you come in through different entrances and don’t overlap. As players, we probably don’t quite see the full extent of everything being rolled out. I think a lot of work has gone on to make sure that we can continue.

There’s been a few positive tests, but if you think of how many tests have actually been done, there’s been a really low percentage of cases within the game. It’s a privilege to keep on being able to play. Also the wider community, I think, enjoys being able to watch some kind of sport. We’ve grown our audience a bit, because I think people just love watching sports. If there’s live sports on, then they’re going to probably turn it on. I think we need to capitalize on that, but also remember that we have a responsibility to make sure it keeps happening.

That makes sense. You signed with Birmingham City a few months back on loan from Utah. What went into that decision?

I came back [to the US] for the season and we had the Challenge Cup, which was great.

However, at the end of that, I was excited to come home. I’m not someone who’s typically a home person — I’ve played in the U.S. for five and a half years. I’ve lived away from home for 10 years. However, how everything was playing out… the virus and just everyone’s health…. I don’t know, it was just different. So as the Challenge Cup finished, I was looking to spend some time at home. It happened around the same time that they weren’t quite sure how the NWSL was going to use the next couple of months and what game schedules would look like.

What I did know was I was going to have national team games. I was very conscious that I needed to be in an environment that offered competitiveness in both training and game capacity. It was quite clear that while there might be some opportunity for that in the U.S., there wasn’t going to be a lot. I was quite keen to explore options in Europe, particularly in England, because I know a lot of players here and it’s close to home. But it all happened very last minute.

And how has the transition been for the past few months both on and off the field?

Honestly, I hate that whole process. I hate the stress of new loans, new clubs, and change. I’m a real routine person. I know what I like. But on the whole, it’s been pretty smooth. I’m probably fortunate in that I was able to come over quite quickly and find somewhere to stay.

There’s three other Scottish players playing for Birmingham at the moment. So there’s always that little bit of comfort there when you have people who are from the same place that you’re from. I’ve played in youth national teams with Christie Murray, who’s the captain of Birmingham at the moment, since I was 15, 16 years old. When you’ve known someone for almost half your lifetime, then that’s obviously something that can be really comforting.

I think football-wise, I was quite comfortable moving into this environment — knowing the level, the standards, and the type of football that’s played here. I think I was less concerned by that and more apprehensive for the general change in life.

How would you compare the playing style versus the NWSL?

It’s definitely a lot quicker in the U.S. I’m always reluctant to say that, because when you say that people just think, “Oh, the American style is just all about physicality and all about being fast and fit.” I think that’s a disservice to the American style, because I think there’s also some of the most talented technical footballers playing in the NWSL.

I just think that as a whole, the game over there is quicker. Speed of play is definitely quicker. On top of that, in the U.S. you also have the heat in a lot of places. So physically, I think there’s just a much greater challenge in the U.S.

Over here, I think, there’s probably a little bit more analysis done over the tactical side of the game. But again, I don’t want that to sound like it’s not done in the U.S., because there’s certainly a huge component of the game and the NWSL that’s very, very tactical, and there’s teams that are very effective both in possession and out of possession. I just think the biggest difference is that speed of play and the physical demands.

We’ve seen other NWSL players and specifically other Americans going on loan to European teams over the past few months. What do you think that means for FAWSL? 

It’s hard to say. A lot of people look at it and try to generalize: They try to say the league is growing because of it. But I think everyone has gone for different circumstances. I’ve gone for my reasons. It is definitely a reflection that the league is competitive, but I think the league should naturally adopt the fact that it’s growing. I think the growth of the game will come from the continued infrastructure that comes within football and from the FA to make sure that the game grows in the right direction. A lot of things will be impacted more by building a framework that allows the game to grow, instead of just having superstar names.

Do you have any specific personal goals for this season with Birmingham?

I want to come here and perform. I’ve come to a club that is considered one of the smaller clubs, and that puts a different pressure on your game. I’ve enjoyed that. So far, it’s been a really positive experience.

We had a really good month in October and had some great results. That really lifted up everyone. That was just such a powerful message to see and to be part of. In sports, there’s these kinds of moments and roller-coasters — up and downs. I think there’s going to be some of that while I’ll be here, but it’s really powerful to see those big moments with a number of players who are really together and just are so desperate to fight for one another. I just think it’s just a unique kind of challenge.

We’ll have some huge national team games coming up. We had a bit of a, you could say, poor result against Finland last month. I know that we feel disappointed by that, but we have the opportunity to put that right in the next window. We definitely want to qualify for the Euros again. We don’t want it to be a one-off and a different expectation on the group. I think that’s what is expected of Scotland now. The men qualified already and that brought back a lot of emotions. It’s something that just makes you really proud to be Scottish. So that’s another huge goal for the year.