US women’s national team still without CBA

Jeff Kassouf March 4, 2013 43

The USWNSTPA and US Soccer are yet to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. (Copyright Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

Preseason starts March 11 for National Women’s Soccer League teams, but the cornerstones of the league – US women’s national team players – are still without a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The US Soccer Federation and the US Women’s National Soccer Team Players’ Association (USWNSTPA) are yet to come to an agreement after the previous deal, ratified in 2006, expired at the end of 2012.

USWNSTPA lawyer John B. Langel says he is “in regular contact with Sunil (Gulati, US Soccer president)” and hopes the two parties can reach an agreement soon.

“We’d like to get it done yesterday,” Langel said via telephone on Friday evening. “We’ve got an NWSL season that they want to get started, so we’d like to get it done before then.”

US Soccer declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations.

Each US women’s national team player competing in the NWSL will have a national team component and an NWSL component to her contract, but the details are still being worked out. Those details do, however, need to be finalized before the NWSL season starts on April 13.

“We need to have a deal done for NWSL,” Langel said.

This is the first CBA negotiation in which Gulati is president of the USSF. He was elected to the position two months after the last CBA was ratified. Langel has represented the USWNSTPA since 1998, ushering the players’ association through the WUSA and WPS eras. Each of the three leagues have presented unique scenarios, he said.

“We’re eager. Everybody wants to get it done,” Langel said. “We’ve had good conversations, but it’s all new. We did a WUSA deal; that was one way to do it. We did a WPS deal; that was another way to do it. This is a third way to do it. In the WUSA we talked to the WUSA, in WPS we talked to WPS and now we’re talking to US Soccer.”

Asked about CBA negotiations on a Jan. 14 conference call, US forward Abby Wambach said she was “confident” a deal would be reached.

“We are all working very diligently,” she said just days after being allocated to the Western New York Flash. “So many conference calls, so many emails between players, lawyers and US Soccer. Those are the things that we are trying to expedite and get done in a timely fashion so that it can be behind us and we can focus our attention on the game.”

The US women will be delayed in their arrival to NWSL training camps as is. Their last match at the Algarve Cup in Portugal is a March 13 placement game against an opponent to be determined.

Mexico is also at the Algarve Cup, while Canada competes at the simultaneously run Cyprus Cup.

  • Steglitz49

    A right way, a wrong way and the USWNST’s way?

  • Steglitz49

    At the recently concluded mini-U23 tournament in La Manga in Spain, the USA’s lasses laid waste to the opposition and cleaned up. Though Sweden were able to defeat Norway in the last game, the impression was of USA >> England > Norway > Sweden.

    Apparently a U23 international is scheduled between USA and Sweden in Sweden in May. Is the USU23LNT going on a grand tour of Europe? Whom else are they playing?

  • vert2013

    So if the CBA expired at the end of 2012, how is the USWNT playing now? They’re out of contract right now.

  • NYRick

    Kind of crazy for any of the USWNT to be playing without a CBA right now. If anyone is heaven forbid injured at Algarve, how does that work? So surprised that wasn’t worked out with the allocation placement and money last month. Kind of strange. Need to resolve that asap.

    • vert2013

      That’s what I’m curious about. They’ve had a camp, 2 games and now Algarve without a contract, there has to be some sort of contingency right?

      • NYRick

        You’re right. They’ve actually played two USWNT games this year already without a CBA, and in the first one the NWSL’s biggest star attraction got hurt and missed the second game. Fortunately for her it looked a lot worse when she limped off. I thought she may have even broken an ankle. One thing I’d like to add about that is that the women are much tougher and more dedicated than their male professional soccer counterparts any day of the week. I’m a ManU fan and I understand that Phil Jones (who took a similar knock to his ankle, I saw the play and it didn’t look that bad over 2 weeks ago) will not play tomorrow against Madrid in the biggest game of the year. He’s still “not fit.” LOL.

        But back to this CBA. It is pure insanity for the women to play any games without one. No professional league, no entertainment industry of any type would continue operation for one minute without a CBA. I would strike and refuse to play any games including the start of the NWSL of I were them without a CBA.

        • Anon

          Assuming they are going by option 3 in Boston Red’s above post, I would say this:

          How practical is it for anyone but the top of the top (Morgan, Wambach, etc, considering they get a lot more from endorsements) to go on strike? They do fairly well, obviously better than players who aren’t on the national team, but I’d imagine the loss of income could hurt pretty bad. Then consider that their spot on the team isn’t guaranteed when they come back. Tons of people have been saying that A-Rod is probably done with the WNT, so why should someone like Leroux go on strike when there are plenty of capable people waiting for a chance behind her?

          • vert2013

            Who is going to come in without a contract though? If a player gets hurt in a game without a contract, US Soccer is under no obligation to do anything besides cart them off the field and US Soccer would be opening themselves up for all sorts of liability suits. Contracts are imperative in anything above amateur level sports.

          • Anon

            I don’t know the specifics, but I know that there was an NFL players’ strike several years back where the NFL brought in replacement players for a few games until they reached a CBA. I suppose they had their own separate agreement? I assumed that if the national team players went on strike, something similar would happen.

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            There would be nothing to stop the league from hiring replacements if the USWNT players are not available. Some players could elect to cross the picket line. This CBA is with the USSF, not the NWSL.

            The NFL has a players association which is the bargaining unit for its players. When they went on strike, the league had the right to hire non-NFLPA players (or those members who crossed the picket line). The NFL didn’t negotiate collectively with the replacement players because they weren’t certified as a union, just paid them whatever they negotiated and provided the same benefits to all players.

          • Steglitz49

            The NWSL is dead in the water if the USWNT players are not available.

          • randomhookup

            But US Soccer has lots of players in without CBAs — primarily at the U-level. Are the U23s (even the pros) covered by a CBA? I don’t think so, but they still come to play. USSF has coverage for the injuries — whether that covers lost wages is hard to say (though most non-CBA players are amateurs anyway).

          • Steglitz49

            One assumes that most if not all U23 players are still at or just finishing college so the primary purpose of them playing for the U23 NT is not earning their living.

            There is also no club involved. US Soccer could have a collective agreement with the NCAA (I do not know; does anyone?). As long as health care (incl treatment of serious injuries) is covered, the joy and pride of representing one’s country goes a long way and is fine reward.

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            9 of the 20 players called into the U23 camp in Spain are signed with professional teams (Mewis was then diverted to the big team). Yes, most of them are either finishing their last semester or taking time away to prepare for their first pro season, but a major injury can limit their ability to make a living in the game.

          • Steglitz49

            Amber Brooks plays for Bayern Munich and Lindsey Horan, who went straight into the senior side, plays for PSG. One assumes that such well established and comparatively well off clubs would not let their players play on mickey-mouse contracts. One assumes that standard FIFA rules apply.

          • Steglitz49

            The players may not be where the shoe pinches. Their agents, the teams or even the lawyers may be. The agents want their cut and the lawyers have to protect the interest of their clients, including the “weaker” players.

            Then you have to square the circle with the two foreign FAs involved, so the dept of labor may be involved. Maybe the American equivalent of the “Bosman” ruling in EU has reared its head?

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            Not going to happen. Congress isn’t going to do anything to make it easier for Mexican/Canadian players to work in the US.

          • Steglitz49

            Since the NWSL was trumpeted and bassooned out as a joint venture between three FAs, one assumes that those setting up the circus had consulted the relevant departments about the legal niceties. It would be awfully embarrassing if at this stage the NWSL dissolved like a house of cards because someone in the Dept of Labor got cold feet and sneezed.

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            Just like with MLS, the law won’t allow any favoritism for any nationals not US citizens or Green Card holders.

            Think about it… the Bosman ruling only came about because EU laws were already in place. In the US, the laws aren’t going to change now because Congress can’t decide on anything.

          • Steglitz49

            I can see that those setting up the NWSL may have got the green light from one bunch of officials at the dept of homeland security or the NRA but by the time the NWSL actually are hiring some other people occupy those positions and have decided that the NWSL set-up won’t fly under US labor laws.

            This would be an unfortunate situation. The ramifications would be legion. Let’s hope it can all be sorted out, if necessary in a smoke-filled room.

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            Well, the issue of free movement of Canadian & Mexican players into the US without a visa is a pretty well known one. There isn’t a Bosman equivalent for NAFTA. It’s pretty likely their lawyers never talked to the government because there was no real need to. They just needed to know the rules in the US and work with those as they exist now.

          • Steglitz49

            Seeing that it is the USWNT taht are without a CBA one has to assume that this is a local inconvenience. One wonders what it might be? Equal pay? A fair deal? A square deal?

          • NYRick

            Good points. I thought about that too. Strike is a last resort, and they don’t have the leverage or the money to sustain themselves like members of the Big American 4.

            Plus, as you indicate, the competitive nature of even making the USWNT or even finding yourself in the player pool of 30 is probably as hard as it gets right now. I think as Boston Red clarified above, if they are still playing the friendlies, camps and Algarve under the existing conditions of the old contract, then the true deadline is probably around March 13 when the Algarve is finished and the USWNT players have to report to their respective NWSL camps.

          • Steglitz49

            Strike is not an option, unfortunately for the ladies. An NWSL without USWNT players is dead in the water and by the same token it is too late to get a foreign berth now, except a poorly paid one.

            The most likely explanation are legal-technical issues, not least how the dept of labor views the status of the foreign NT players.

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            I looked into strikes and visas. If the player struck (or were locked out from) the league, it would hamper any work visas being issued for foreign players. But, in this case, the labor action would be against the USSF, not the NWSL.

          • Steglitz49

            The lemming instinct is probably not an intrinsic part of the make-up of US women soccer players, but who knows?

            What seems apparent is that surprisingly different US women players are prepared to find employment abroad, unlike their counter-parts in Japan and Brazil, and obviously Europe and even Africa. Maybe apple-pie made in Bavaria is too different or meat-balls actually made in Sweden do not taste quite right.

            The ladies can withhold their labor. That would sink the NWSL without a trace. The USWNT will then rely on NCAA seniors, of which there are more than enough.

        • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

          Going on strike? Why? Players tend to go on strike when the owners have locked out the players. That clearly hasn’t happened here.

          The NFL, NHL and NBA could learn a lot from US Soccer and their players. Frankly so could the EPL.

          • Steglitz49

            One assumes that the most likely issues are salaries and benefits, not least health insurance, and possibly American labour laws and regulations.

            The players’ agents may be putting in their two cents worth while the various lawyers have to be seen to be earning their fees though one would expect that those are not likely to be deal-breakers.

          • randomhookup

            Actually, a lockout is the owners telling the players not to show up to work because they want a new contract. A strike is the workers deciding collectively not to show because they are unhappy with the terms. It all depends on who initiates the action.

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            Not really. It just depends on who does what first, but regardless of which one happens first the other is going to happen. I’m sure it all has to do with legalities.

          • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

            Actually, it does matter in the law. When the owner locks you out, you don’t go on strike — you are locked out. The NHL locked out the players; they didn’t then go on strike.

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            The NFL locked out the players, but they still struck. They also dissolved so they could sue the league, but that is neither here nor there.

    • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

      In general, when a contract expires, the parties can either (1) stop working until there’s a new contract, (2) lock out the employees until there’s a new contract or (3) continue on with the existing terms in place until a new contract is agreed to.

      • NYRick

        So they obviously aren’t doing points 1 & 2. And for point 3, it hasn’t been mentioned that they are operating currently with the existing terms in place until a new deal is reached. In fact, it would seem impossible with the formation of the new league and its allocation and subsidizing process of players. There is most likely a major roadblock.

        • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

          They are operating under #3, but the formation of the league is the 1st point they will hit that interferes with those terms. But up to now, they have simply had camps and friendlies & that’s covered under the current contract. Once they hit the NWSL season, then they have something not covered by the current contract. That’s why the SBA is important to have worked out by the start of preseason.

          • Steglitz49

            The world will little note nor long remember if the NWSL sinks without a trace. The players might, not least the Mexican and Canadians. The fall-out may be considerable. US Soccer would be keen to avoid the NWSL joining the USS Maine.

      • vert2013

        The recent NHL lockout being a perfect example.

        • Steglitz49

          Once the NHL has exterminated itself, women’s soccer can muscle in and become the 4th sport. Go for it. With Mexico as well as USA and Canada as advertising base, the NWL is in a very special position. Exploit it!

    • Steglitz49

      Verily, it is strange. The other big professional leagues NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL have teams in many and various states and in Canada (not NHL) so there must be plenty of models to work from. Where could the shoe pinch?

      I was under the impression that US Soccer (and Canada and Mexico) would give the money to the clubs who would employ the players. The clubs would release the players for training camps and international duty. Is it the clubs that are throwing a wobbly?

      Finally, is it the agents of certain players that are making waves? I can see that if the player passed up a juicy contract somewhere and now is expected to play for peanuts, the agents % in peanuts will be a lot less than his % in Chateau La Tour or Hefeweisse Kristall.

      • http://twitter.com/BostonRedSoccer Boston Red

        Well, we don’t know how the contracts were designed to work — we’ve been guessing. I suppose it’s easier for the feds to hold the contracts if they are going to be moved around or funded/unfunded.

        The NHL et al. don’t have players provided by an outside party. That makes a huge difference. Otherwise, the teams would simply sign the players and that would be it.

        • Steglitz49

          How would the Mexican and Canadian FAs have contracts in USA? Presumably those must be through the clubs as primary employers in some way?

      • NYRick

        I think the roadblock lies in the actual player’s individual salaries and the allocated (something of a soft cap) dollar amount per team. Especially AM and Abby, and probably Sinclair too. That’s why it is kind of silly to have AM and Sinclair playing on the same team. Let’s say they each get 200K base salary for an example. That’s 400k tied up in two players (of which the Portland team doesn’t have to pay a dime since it’s fully subsidized by 2 separate soccer federations). That’s where I feel it gets unfair. If Portland had to shell out the 400K, no way would they be able to afford it. None of the 8 NWSL teams could individually. That’s why we all screamed when we saw some of the allocation. I feel the top 8 players in the world entering the NWSL (at the very least i.e. 1. Morgan 2. Sinclair 3. Abby 4 Pinoe 5 Hope etc.) needed to be seeded in that manor and allocated as a first round pick to each of the 8 teams. And the NW teams (Portland and Seattle) pick 7th and 8th. They will sell out the place without starts. That could have been easily done. But the players egos, especially the stars, and their agents have their claws out. No other good reason as to why the CBA hasn’t happened yet.

        I saw the NYRB-Timbers game the other night. We all see that atmosphere in Portland. Along with Seattle, obviously the best place for any pro soccer player in North America, male or female, to be. Morgan surely demanded she play there or Seattle. Pinoe, Sinclair and Hope demanded the same. Those are 4 of the 5 biggest US names. Abby agreed to go back home for a season to Rochester to balance things a bit. But apparently she recently purchased a home in Portland and no doubt wanted to play there as well.

        I guarantee these are the roadblocks. It’s about player salaries and a soft cap that must be considered or else the league will turn into a competitive joke. If that happens and you sell out Portland and Seattle games and 1,500 show up in the other cities you have strike three for US women’s pro soccer leagues in the span of a decade. It’s a slippery slope. That’s why the CBA probably isn’t in place yet. Much to think about and do correctly to the benefit of not just the individual USWNT players, but the individual franchises of the NWSL itself.

        • Steglitz49

          “Especially AM and Abby, and probably Sinclair too. That’s why it is kind of silly to have AM and Sinclair playing on the same team. Let’s say they each get 200K base salary for an example.“

          I agree in principle, though I note that Ms Sinclair is paid through the Canadian FA. I find it hard to believe in a $200k salary for 6 month’s work. It is also interesting to note that Ms Heath and Rapinoe both took the French €uro while Ms Brooks the Bavarian €uro, and Ms Noyola and Harris are being released to start on time. At one time there were rumors that Ms Sinclair would join PSG but they acquired first Kosse Asslani and then Tobin Heath, so maybe your assessment is not wide off the mark and the others priced themselves out of the market or cut rich deals not to go abroad.