Clock ticking for NWSL player allocation

Jeff Kassouf January 5, 2013 38

Alex Morgan (13) and Abby Wambach still don't know where they will play in 2013. (Copyright Patricia Giobetti |

Like that taunting clock at the front of the room for high school students taking their SAT exam, the seconds hand ticks louder as each second passes. There’s just enough time to get through that section of the test, but you may have to skip a few questions.

The clock is atop a tower — like Big Ben’s presence over parliament in London — for the National Women’s Soccer League. The first step to teams filling out roster for the league’s inaugural season, which is set to begin in approximately three months, is allocating the national team players from United States (up to 24), Canada (up to 16) and Mexico (at least 12).

But with the NWSL College Draft less than two weeks away, national team players still don’t know where they will play and teams don’t have that critical piece of their roster to build (and market) off of.

And so the clock keeps ticking.

Sources around the league have slightly different takes on how far along the process is, but two things are consistent: It still isn’t done and the statement that sounds more like hope is that the process will be completed before the draft on Jan. 18 in Indianapolis.

That feet have collectively dragged on this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

As we noted on This Week in Women’s Soccer a couple weeks ago, U.S. women’s national team players have publicly been very guarded about their stance on the league. They have collectively hesitated to commit to playing in the league, which likely serves as the bargaining chip of strength in numbers for ongoing negotiations with U.S. Soccer.

U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe stated it best following that 4-1 win over China on Dec. 15 when she said, “we need to know a lot more.” That was the night the NWSL announced its name, which apparently wasn’t delivered to players ahead of time. Rapinoe led off postgame questioning by asking the name of the league.

Rapinoe, according to recent reports, will play for Lyon this spring before returning to the NWSL mid-season.

Sydney Leroux’s statement after that Dec. 15 match probably best summarizes the U.S. team’s ‘if they meet our demands than we’ll be excited’ view of the league.

“I think if it works out we’re all excited and we’re all for it, but we still don’t know all of the details so we are trying to figure that out.” – Leroux

Leroux had previously stated she would play in the league, but, of course, there are contracts and a Collective Bargaining Agreement to be worked out. Again, strength in numbers.

How much longer this process will take is unknown. It has to be done before the draft and it should have been done weeks ago, but the process surely has not gone as smoothly as the U.S. Soccer Federation and NWSL teams would have liked.

To jump to any conclusions about major U.S. stars not playing in the league would be yellow journalism at its finest. But it’s more than worth noting that negotiations have taken far longer than expected.

Canada seems to have its 16 allocated players selected, even if coach John Herdman won’t tell who they are. Mexico’s selected players remain unknown.

In fairness to U.S. players, they dealt with enough shenanigans during the WPS years and they’ve accomplished enough in the last 18 months to demand higher standards out of a domestic league.

“Quality of training staff, quality of coaching staff, compensation — small things that really affect whether a person can live off of playing professional soccer,” Alex Morgan said on Dec. 15, referencing what remains unanswered.

With all team coaches now identified, there’s clearly one big holdup: money. Whether or not U.S. Soccer will pay enough remains to be seen, but the pressure is on the federation and, in turn, the league. If the players don’t get that, European and perhaps even Asian teams are suitable homes for the American women.

Dec. 20 episode of This Week in Women’s Soccer:

  • Must be using the NHL’s negotiators. Frustrating.

    • Steglitz49

      In which the “N” stands for “No”? A portent?

  • wonka51

    Seems to me the “only” players able to really make a living out of this are the ones dragging their feet, no? I thought the US players already had a pretty good deal with the US federation. Compare that with what the CSA gives the canadian players; I doubt any of them will make a lot playing for the league. And yet, the choices have already been named on their side.
    Plus, how much can they expect to make in Europe? Except for a few big names, none of them will make much overseas…
    It seems to me that this latest effort to have a women’s league in the US is a lot more serious – and realistic – then the ones before. And seeing as the american players have always been more inclined to play in the US… I really don’t know why they would take so long to negociate this time around.

    • Steglitz49

      Your point about lack of foreign opportunity is well taken.

      Atletico Bilbao defeated Arsenal Ladies 1-0 in a friendly the other day. All 20 of Bilbao’s roster are Spanish. None of Arsenal Ladies’ 25 players come from outside the British isles. Wolfsburg’s women, who are in the same side of the CL draw as Arsenal Ladies, have 2 non-German players of 26.

      Maybe the signing of Lindsey Horan by PSG has set a new pattern for playing abroad?

    • necron99

      You have to remember that there is really 2 different negotiations going on that are lumped into 1. The league is starting up now, but the real negotiation is on the USSF contract with the USWNT. That is the deal you mentioned in comparison with the CSA and CanWNT. That great deal that they have had for a while is now up for negotiations. Unfortunately they are trying to get a league off of the ground while also working out their new USWNT contract with the players. Of course the players are going to be hesitant until it is all done. What if the new USWNT contract was for 50% less money and required the players to play for NWSL teams to get it? Of course that would be foolish, but it needs to be worked out.

      • Steglitz49

        I expect you are right. If you sign a USWNT contract there likely will be a clause that you must play in the NWSL. How the USWNT handles players who have chosen to take the foreign krona, €uro or Yen is a separate issue and no doubt follows SOPs as old as the hills. I presume the USWNT reimburses the foreign club for the use of its player? Maybe someone can tell us?

        • wonka51

          I would very much doubt it. This new league has a unique format, in that the federations help pay the players. But I don’t think it’s the case for any other league. And you might be right about a clause; Krieger did come back from Germany to play in the NWSL. I have to be honest; in her place, I wouldn’t take such a big risk and leave such a good team to come play for a league no one knows much about right now.

          • Jane

            Do you really think Krieger is coming back because of the league? I think it’s more likely she’s coming back to reclaim her spot on the National Team. Considering there’s a new coach, I would think she has to come back to the US to secure it and spend time in camp with the team.

          • Steglitz49

            Ali Krieger has won all that she can win in Europe. Her team is not in the CL this time and in the German table it is currently not in one of the CL-qualifying slots. To win more she needs to play in another league.

            Ali would no doubt like to ply again for the USWNT. Also playing in the NWSL means playing in your own country. (OK, Yuki Ogimi managed to get married while playing for Potsdam so anything is possible.)

            Ali no doubt would like to see the new league establish itself and flourish and be willing to come and play in it just for that.

          • necron99

            The captain of the Australian Women’s National Team says that they are paid by the federation and the contract says you have play in the Aussie W-League, unless you have a reason like injury. So it is not unique.

          • VW

            Krieger came back to the US to regain her spot on the USWNT. However, unlike her USWNT teammates, Krieger took the chance on playing overseas, played against top competition, and I would venture is probably in a better financial situation than a good number of her contemporaries because she played in a league where she received a not only a very good salary, but the normal perks of the Bundesliga of an apartment paid for and an automobile provided by the club which significantly reduced her expenses.

            I think this new US league could take a feather out of the Bundesliga’s cap by entering into partnerships as German teams have done that gives incentives to businesses that are willing to provide services to the non-allocated players in particular that would offset their limited salaries. These kinds of partnerships could turn into significant cost cutting measures for the league.

    • Kernel Thai

      The collective bargaining agreement between USSoccer and their WNT players came to end with the new year. Until a new contract is worked out no one is making a living. The players want the best deal they can get. Anyone would. The real problem here is the time table. Not only is the allocation taking way too long but the clubs cant apparently sign free agent until Jan 18 which is also draft day. Im not really sure how u organize ur draft if u only have 7 players on ur team.

  • LetsGetReal

    The USWNT players usually say “i want to grow the game in the US”, well they need to be able to sacrifice if they want to help develop the game in the USA. Sacrifice does mean doing your “fair share” by taking lower salaries if they claim to be developing the game domestically. I know most of USWNT players are democrats so they should actually walk the walk they talk about.

    also i think if the uswnt has the view “if they meet our demands” it makes them look too good for this start-up/3rd try of a league. Also saying meets our demands, sounds like its all about the money. if that’s the case, they need to sign for clubs in europe asap.

    It just sounds like more and more of the USWNT think they should all be earning 6 figure salaries. Shoot, look at MLS, there are some great players making less than 45K a year (ryan meara, schuler, estrada, beitashour)! They need to start realizing if you aren’t marketable like the rapinoe/wambach/solo/morgans of the world you’re not going to make that much money, and definitely not as much as men. Lets Get Real. There’s just not tons of money being made in women’s football really on a consistent club level.

    I still think its very sad we dont have more MLS invovlement, i wanted the WMLS so badly. Look at the longetivity of the WNBA, and that has to be the main reason. Right now these womens players and officials need to realize its about longevity and not all about the money.

    • Steglitz49

      It is difficult to get reliable figures but Lyon’s yearly salary budget was variously give as between 3-3.5m€ ($3.7-4m) but according to “The Commander” writing in the long discussion about Lyon it is set to rise to 4m€ and possibly a bit more. It was said that Frankfurt and Potsdam have salary budgets about 1.8m€, and PSG maybe 2.2m€.

      Wolfsburg, whose club chairman is the CEO of VW, a couple of years back got a bit more coins in their war-chest. They spent it wisely, signing young German players mainly from Frankfurt, Potsdam and Duisburg who were not getting pitch-time being blocked by the stars. A fine investment.

      Running a ladies’ soccer team is not so expensive but I doubt that many players in Europe get 6-figure salaries, although undeniable some do. Maybe the Equalizer can find out for us?

    • StarCityFan

      The NBA has money to burn. MLS is doing okay, but there’s really no comparison in terms of depth of pockets.

      • Steglitz49

        It is sort of topsy-turvy, is it not? The NBA is one of the wealthiest sports organization in the world and the very best players play for them. They can afford to carry their sisters. Soccer in USA is the mirror image. The American ladies have for long consistently been among the world’s very best — yet the MLS players earn more. The same is true in Japan but I doubt that that is any consolation.

        Indeed, I presume that the MLS see the US ladies as competitors for the same small cake, in other words like in Europe 90 years ago. If I were the NWSL I would not expect too much from MLS.

        • Gerson22

          Ummmm, no. MLS does NOT see the US women as competitors, and if they did, they surely wouldn’t see this league as competition. There simply is no distaff version of any sport in this country that is more popular than its male counterpart. Too many people mistake the cyclical interest in the USWNT and a handful of its stars for interest in “women’s soccer.” The only thing a league like this can really do is minimize its expenses, because the ceiling on its interest is low.

          • Steglitz49

            Your comments apply equally well and possibly even more so in Europe (and to all team sports). Japan may be slightly different in terms of popularity among people though that is not reflected in income.

            In Europe, certain (but not all) sports where one compete as individuals women can be bigger stars than men, at least in their own countries. The obvious examples are the skiing events — alpine, X-country and shooting (biathlon). The prize money is the same.

            In Europe all ladies’ football is an artificial activity in that it is subsidized in some way. It is a curious observation that men aged 20-35 will go and watch third rate men play and pay a lot for it but they — indeed hardly anyone — will go and watch first class women play and for less to boot. A curious marketing puzzle.

            Nevertheless, I put it to you that MLS see women’s soccer as an irritating intrusion that they fear will nibble away at their little cake. Whether that is conscious or subconscious it is there.

          • VW

            Agreed. The biggest misconception in the US is that it automatically follows that the popularity of the USWNT equates broad support for women’s soccer. The question remains what can be done to turn that around and make women’s soccer a viable option for sports fans in the US?

    • Steglitz49

      Speaking about the MLS, have you (or anyone) any idea why Blatter lashed out against them in the recent interview? It seemed like an example of the straw that broke the camel’s back or the drop that made the cup run over, but I have not seen any explanation. (If you believe in conspiracy theories, was a there a shot across the NWSL’s bows as well, maybe?) Most odd for such a wily politician to lose his cool like that. Any ideas?

      • Joshua

        Sepp Blatter made a few condescending remarks about MLS at the tail end of a long video interview on El Jazeera. It’s on their You tube channel. He didn’t “lash out against [MLS]” or “lose his cool”. He looked mellow and congenial thoughout. The interviewer just lobbed him easy “softball” questions. The questioner was no Mike Wallace.

        El Jazeera is a state supported news organization financially supported by Qatar which was awarded the 2022 World Cup by FIFA. The USA was supposed to be a the leading contender for the 2022 WC but somehow Qatar won out.

        A Blatter interview on El Jazeera is going to be a friendly pro-FIFA one. Blatter’s remarks struck me as very condescending about association football in the USA or, as he said, “”soccer” as they call football there.” After all, Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup beating out the USA. Blatter was sort of explaining in a condescending way why the USA was not going to be hosting a World Cup again after 1994. The sport hasn’t “boomed” on a professional league level like it was supposed to. MLS is a joke. The Americans dropped the ball. Therefore no World Cup in the USA in 2022.

        The old man should retire before he dies in office. He talked like an old supreme court judge with Alzheimer’s that is out of touch with reality..

        • Joshua

          Correction: “El Jazeera” s/b “Al Jazeera”.

        • Joshua

          Coorection two: Al Jazeera is a state OWNED news organization financially supported by Qatar.

        • Steglitz49

          The reality is that a country that had no professional soccer structure was awarded the men’s World Cup. As a result it took 28 years for the World Cup to be played in South-America again.

          South-America used to be on par with Europe but during the past 10 years or so South-America has declined in men’s soccer without USA rising much.

          It was the timing I was after. Why now? Why this moment?

          Blatter is, after all, a politician. He did not respond to the booing in London and it is all but forgotten. If he or FIFA planned for the questions to be asked, why with this timing? Maybe it was just a couple of questions at the end of an interview …

          • Joshua

            His remarks didn’t stick me as being politically calculated, just very ill informed. I think he’s out of touch with things. He probably spends too much time in his “presidential office suites” as he called where he was being interviewed.

            Blatter has a history of putting his foot in his mouth. This is just another one of those instances.

          • Steglitz49

            They have already started jockeying for his office. Maybe through his mouth FIFA are sending out coded messages?

            Blatter does not give the impression as someone out of touch. On the other hand, given that this is is last few years in power, maybe his influence has vaned, in which case why should he bother?

            Maybe we can ask Jeff to do a piece on the three most likely to take over?

  • StarCityFan

    It’s odd that they won’t tell us even who the allocated players are. It would be nice to get any kind of information out of this league. The lack of it doesn’t bode well.

    • necron99

      I think they are in a bit of a bind. They originally said up to 24 players. But some might play overseas. The overseas players may not get paid by USSF (for league play) because they are not playing in the league. Once they started working out the details with the teams it became more of a 24 players will be paid by the Fed, 3 USWNT players per team. So I am sure the details being worked out include if Abby, Alex, Hope, and Megan decide to play overseas, they won’t get the league pay, but now the Fed has to find 4 more players to fill in the 24 allocated. With players out of contract and unsure where they want to play, it could be a real mess. Players could be at the stage of seeing where they were allocated and trying to find a “better” place to play overseas if they don’t like what they got. There are many ways this could be going. It is complicated.

      What we do know is it will work out, and it would be better if there was more time. More time to get the USWNT contract done first, then allocations, then free agent/draft period. Teams/players need time to work these things out.

      • Steglitz49

        It must be a bit galling to be one of the world’s best woman players in the world’s game yet to see not only lady golfers and tennis players, but those doing skiing — alpine, X-country of biathlon — earning not just more but a lot more than yourself.

        Maybe Alex & co should try Indy- or NASCAR racing?

  • Short_Change

    The women should hire whoever negotiated Jurgen’s contract. Then they’ll be grand.

  • BePatient!

    The last time the player’s association negotiated a CBA with US Soccer was in 2006 and it was finalized on Jan 4th. Patience, people. This time around, the negotiations will no doubt be more complicated because of the new league.

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  • Cut em a break

    shocking, simply shocking, professionals might decide to play where they get paid more!

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  • anonymousCoward

    If a majority of the USWNT players and/or the highly visible ones like Morgan etc op out of the new US Women’s Pro League then it could hurt the US women’s game overall. I agree they need to step up and live up to their big talk. There image as individuals could be hurt too. It will with me.

    • Steglitz49

      They are between a rock and a hard place. There are not enough teams that can afford the type of honoraria they would like, and the few that can are keeping their powder dry because they would not want to pay a penny more though they would be happy to pay a penny less than they need to.

      Lyon acquiring Ohno and Rapinoe have raised their profile in USA but neither Arsenal nor Barcelona need to, and Bayern Munich already sport 3 USA lady players.

  • Gerson22

    Gotta love Sydney LeRoux, who has been a pro for an hour and a half, talking about “our demands.” Hey, Syd, how ’bout we don’t have a league at all? How would that grab ya? “Demands.”

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