For NWSL, free agency could come with twist

The Equalizer Staff January 17, 2013 31

Free agency in the National Women’s Soccer League could have a series of interesting twists, ones which could limit the number of players teams sign, cap free agent salaries, and create a pool players that would be dispersed to fill out initial NWSL rosters.

Multiple sources familiar with the league’s current ideas have confirmed early proposals would create a concept best described as limited free agency. In it, each team would have the ability to sign four free agents in an open market. The rest of free agents would be put into a player pool, with a draft used to round out teams’ rosters.

Current plans would also cap the amount of money teams are allowed to pay players signed in the open market. Multiple sources cited the figure as near $25,000 per season.

Although the league’s free agency plans are described as close to implementation, none of the proposed rules currently are finalized. As was showed when the college draft went from a serpentine to conventional order, the league is capable of changing course.

When asked on Thursday, U.S. Soccer declined to comment on plans for free agency.

If implemented, the league’s plans would provide cost certainties for the league’s teams; however, the proposed rules could also limit the amount sought-after free agents would make in the open market.

The plans would also limit teams’ ability to stockpile talent, with the post-market dispersal keeping attractive destinations from cornering the market on more than four players.

Finalized details on free agency are expected soon. NWSL will hold its college draft on Friday at 9 a.m. ET in Indianapolis, where 32 more players will (for now, at least) be added to the league.

  • ToSeek

    How long is this uncertainty going to continue?

    “The NWSL announced today that its inaugural match will take place on April 6, 7, 13, or 14, either in the afternoon or evening. It will be hosted by Portland, Seattle, or Western New York with the visiting team being the one that can get the cheapest plane fare. Make your plans accordingly.”

  • randomhookup

    I’m not sure I see the real value to this. Teams are already working on a salary cap and (presumably) a salary minimum. Let them sign local free agents to their heart’s content. The smarter team gets the better team (though that’s not always the case). A draft really doesn’t help players who are in a situation where they can’t move (and what about injury replacements?) They seem to be overthinking this.

    • StarCityFan

      Yeah, I mean, what if a player doesn’t want to move clear across the country for $10k/year? Does that mean they’re stuck with the W-League?

      • TsojLov

        I agree. Some metro areas are going to have a better free agent pool than others, but I don’t think this is a workable way to fix that. People aren’t going to move long distances for low pay, so really this just limits the number of local free agents a team can hire.

        • Seattle already lost local favorite Perez in the NT allocation to WNY. If this blocks out Deines, another local favorite with Seattle hopes, I’m going to be very sad. That’s just a situation off the top of my head. When at all possible they need to encourage at least the free agent level of compensation local.

  • In the last #wsoccerchat a GM/owner (can’t recall) implied there wouldn’t be any allocations or weirdness involving the free agent pool. With how little they would already make in this league it seems mean to send them where they don’t want to go. In many cases playing near family or other connections will keep their costs down. Playing where they want to or are most wanted means a lot when money perks aren’t there yet in this league. A draft in the FA is taking things too far.

  • Keith Miller

    I know they are pressed for time and they are working with limitations. But this make it up as you go along approach doesn’t fill me with great confidence.

    • vert2013

      The fact that we’re this far into it and NWSL still doesn’t have a website is what worries me. Just saw that they’re hoping to have it up and running by next week, but that’s ridiculous. The website should have been live the night that they announced the name of the league.

  • If this is an attempt the fix the initial allocation flub and help even things out I take back everything bad I said. Don’t screw over the free agents to make up for an early mistake. They don’t have a lot of perks this first year as it is. Let them play where they want and within the means of teams that want them. The cap will do the rest.

    • Kernel Thai

      Exactly. The first attempt was with the draft. It was supposed to be a blind draw snake draft but they managed to unbalance the league so much with bad allocation that they felt they had to do something. Now theyve figured out that certain teams have an advantage signing free agents. Quick, out comes the eraser. Ack!

      • The college draft change appeared to be a joint decision among the teams. Hopefully this second adjustment about free agents included player input. Early on local talent and cost savings of family and supplemental jobs was touted. This new rumor is a big divergence from that so hopefully all parties are in agreement to the change. That is if there is any substance to this rumor.

  • necron99

    This is just a plain terrible idea. With the salary cap already in place this could greatly impact team parity. If the maximum salary for the 4 free-agents is set in this matter, then location choice once again becomes a prime driver. What is to stop Portland from picking up the next 4 “best’ forwards from the pool for $25k each. Sure they would limit the money they had available for defensive players, but who cares if nobody else can score. This idea severely worsens the disparaties in the initial allocation.

    I am not giving the Thorns the title yet, but there is no way in a normal draft scenario that Sinclair and Morgan are on the same team.

  • Diane (DeeG)

    They are “finalizing’ the fun right out of this. If an owner is foolish enough to blow the budget on one player, I can see where that is detrimental to the whole league succeeding, but at some point the owners have to be trusted to build a team. I’ve seen the declarations that “all owners agree’, but how coerced are they? Allocation, yes. College Draft, yes. Allocated player pool..maybe. It all sounds good on paper, but isn’t it really limiting the players that stuck around to be part of the new league and didn’t heavily pursue overseas play? Even if the roster size is limited to 18 with a max 8 being paid by Federations that leaves 10 players. 4 of those could make a max of $25K each for a $100K bite out of the $200K salary cap. The remaining six could average $16K. So not peanuts, but far from what could have been made in a foreign contract. Once again the onus is on the fans to make this work. Support with your wallet as much as you can. That was me thinking in a comment. I guess it’s not as bad as when I first read about another allocation.

    • Steglitz49

      “not peanuts, but far from what could have been made in a foreign contract”
      — I think that not just $15k but also $25k is not very much. If the league is to be professional players must be able to live on the slalry and put some away for when they no longer play.

      On the other hand, the NWSL have the players over a barrel. With the long training camps of the NT that exceed the FIFA standards, someone playing abroad either has to play for a wealthy team who can afford to let them miss some games or a generous team that gives the extra time off at a risk of losing games.

      — Lyon already has won the French league so as long as Ms Rapinoe plays their CL matches, she can be away; Tyres√∂ has such a strong squad by Swedish standards that they can do likewise.

      The losers here are the players. Their options are constrained while at the same time the NWSL’s low salaries mean that foreign teams will get them cheap.

  • Kernel Thai

    I dont have a problem with either a salary cap $200k is too low but a cap is necessary) or setting a top end limit. Probably there should be salary slots but a limit is ok. What they cant do is suddenly decide to change the rules. U cant decide ur going to pay them so little that u recommend they get a second job then decide ur going to uproot them and randomly place them around the country! If u want to treat them like full professional athletes pay them a salary they can subsist on for the length of the season. It’s silly to pay peanuts and ask the to move as well. Mostly, stop changing the rules.

    • Steglitz49

      Good points Kernel. I guess the NWSL are in a monopoly setting. This is the league you must be in to have a chance to play for the NT. Let’s hope it is just teething problems for the first season.

  • Keith Miller

    Maybe they are leaking this to encourage free agents to sign sooner (and cheaper price tag) with teams so that they’re not left out in the cold and placed in a possible player pool draft.

  • Steglitz49

    “Current plans would also cap the amount of money teams are allowed to pay players signed in the open market. Multiple sources cited the figure as near $25,000 per season.”
    — I thought that the courts struck down the NFL’s original individual player salary cap and that was why the NFL moved to a team salary cap, which the courts allowed. (Baseball also tried to limit player’s salaries but were done for collusion between teams, if I remember right.)

    $25k does not seem a lot of money. If it is meant to be a professional league should not some sort of decent wage be an essential part of the puzzle?

    • They went into this knowing that a portion of the roster wouldn’t be making much money. That was part of the tightening the belt from previous leagues. The trade off was supposed to be cultivating local talent, keeping players near their homes to lower living expenses, and facilitate them finding part time jobs easier. In Europe you see players with part time jobs quiet frequently. That was the plan for a segment of the roster.

      That was my impression from the start. This new scenario where the very least compensated players will now be in a draft and uprooted from all of the cost-savings plans I mentioned above is very odd indeed. It’s just a rumor so far I hope. Like I said earlier, last time I saw this address informally in a chat the word was that free agency will be normal. Things could have changed. Let’s wait until we get more news. It could still mean only part of that is implemented Like a maximum and minimum salary in addition to the cap.

    • randomhookup

      $25k over 6-7 months is certainly liveable when you are provided housing and health insurance. Most teams will also provide additional opportunities to make money. Considering most of the free agents made $0 from playing soccer in 2012, making $10k or more is a luxury.

      • Steglitz49

        Suppose that if you get $25k for 6-7 months in the north playing, what can you reasonably expect to earn in 4-5 months in the southern USA coaching? $15k? So, you make $40k per year? Hmmm?!?

        Well understood, as hercircumstance points out, the majority of women players in Europe earn nothing or next to nothing. Only a select few earn reasonably and a very few earn well. Nevertheless, $40k does not seem very much to me, given that all the ladies in the NWSL are really very good indeed.

        The main benefitter seems to be the European teams that play a winter season (the majority) which can hire these ladies’ services for a song.

        • randomhookup

          Well, I guarantee that most of them aren’t in the game for the money.

          A number of college graduates in the US aren’t making $40k a year, so it’s all relative. Same with women’s ice hockey players. There’s not enough of a pro market to pay them much.

          • Steglitz49

            I think we can agree that women’s soccer (women’s team sports generally) is an artificial activity the world over in that it is subsidized to the hilt. The source of the subsidy and it size is what differs.

            The “Commander” and I, under the Lyon-entry, discussed the issues around the wealthy clubs in Europe putting serious money into the ladies’ game because it would be dominated by a few countries, like the men’s game is today. Maybe the “Commander” wants to come back into the discussion, though s/he seems an expert on French soccer?

      • 25k is the top end of FA money. Most won’t be making that. It’s already been said that teams can’t have direct, indirect, or any hand in player’s side jobs and internally can’t be paid to do team office stuff or else it will be counted against the cap. It’s complicated. The main thing is that most FA won’t be making even 25k anyway. 16K is more like it.

        • Steglitz49

          It looks like the team with the best accountant might win the league!

          (Incidentally, it is a bit odd to see the letters FA used for something which is not the FA, as in the FA Cup, if you get my drift.)

        • randomhookup

          I’m not sure how they are going to work the “you can’t be involved in them finding a job” thing. Teams have always put together camps & such to give players a chance to make side money. What about players who have their own deals — can Abby hire her teammates to run a camp with her? I don’t know how they will police it and if it really makes sense to. Maybe they can just cap the outside income as well, since it seems silly to force a knowledgeable soccer person to have to go outside soccer for additional income.

          • Teams can’t be seen as offering perks to players outside of the cap. So if they want to do soccer related side jobs it can’t be arranged by the team and they also can’t be paid extra for anything they do for the team without it counting for the cap. Players will have to sort out work on their own. If Abby wants to run something that her teammates participate in that would probably be separate enough. That might be a good question for the next #wsoccerchat on twitter. It’s only been touched on a few times.

          • randomhookup

            Yeah, I understand the issue and there isn’t an easy way around it, but maybe they allow up to 1x “influenced income”. Seems silly to ask a college grad to come to a new city & a new job & then figure out ways to make additional money to pay student loans on a part time basis without at least an introduction. The Breakers set up an academy to, I think, help with the income issue. Seems silly they wouldn’t be able to employ the players to help run it (the very people the kids are coming to see).

            Funny that a pro athlete may not be able to participate in something that the NCAA actually allows its athletes to be paid for.

            The outside income opportunities of some players and the issues with non-US citizens not being able to work except for the team (though they are all allocated; we just don’t know how much they will make) make this a big mess.

          • Steglitz49

            The expression “to turn a blind eye to” is said to originate with Nelson. In typical Britsh fashion, he stands in the place of honor on his column in London’s main square. The admiral was known as considerable womanizer. More relevantly here, probably, Nelson was also known to interpret his instructions liberally.

            Nelson was buried in a pre-owned tomb and they set aside his will. Gratitude is the world’s reward.

    • professional just means they get a salary. it has nothing to do with how “professional” a league or team operates. As long as they dont run afoul of IRS laws and stick to league “rules”, capitalism reigns.

  • AAA

    Can someone compile a list of the best free agent players?