A quick look at NWSL salaries

Jeff Kassouf April 11, 2013 62

NWSL executive director Cheryl Bailey said player salaries range from $6,000-$30,000. (Photo Copyright: Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

On Thursday’s national conference call previewing the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season, league executive director Cheryl Bailey said players’ salaries will range from $6,000-$30,000.

The majority of players in the NWSL will never see anything close to that top figure. Some of the better free agents in the league are earning under $20,000 and Canadian and Mexican national team players are also in the middle of that range. That sort of pay is comparable to the final season (2011) of Women’s Professional Soccer, when salaries dropped significantly. But at that point for WPS, the damage was already done.

The higher end of that range, no doubt, accounts for some of the US players. It’s important to remember that their salaries are paid in addition to what they get from the federation for being on the national team. Those details — of which we don’t yet have much clarity — were all worked out in the new collective bargaining agreement that was just signed.

Comparatively, Megan Rapinoe is making about as much in a month for French champion Lyon as some players in the NWSL will make for the entire five-month season. That’s no slight on Rapinoe (who, along with others, deserves such pay) or the NWSL, just the reality of the situations. According to a New York Times article this week (a very good read, by the way), Rapinoe makes about $14,000 per month with Lyon.

When you are talking about Lyon, you are talking about a club backed by a successful men’s team, so that changes things. Lyon, by the way, just clinched their 7th consecutive French league title. Lyon is in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, looking for its third-straight European crown.

The NWSL is a start-up focused on controlling costs — something WUSA failed miserably at and WPS, despite being hyper aware of WUSA’s failures, also couldn’t master. Player salaries are a massive expense. For now, these are the realities women’s pro soccer players face.

  • Kernel Thai

    The league desperately needs a minimum salary. Not sure how many r playing for $6,000 but the number is pretty insulting.

    • randomhookup

      It may be insulting, but it’s $6k more than many of them made last year for playing soccer.

      • Steglitz49

        Spectators, spectators, spectators! No spectators, no professional sport.

    • It sucks, but the lowest figure is only for some of the players and for only part of a years work. There are lots of careers that start off not great like that. Not every career you go into pays off early on. Everyone is entering it eyes wide open. It isn’t like in previous incarnations where players took cuts after promised salaries were not delivered. Managed expectations is a big part of it. The other thing is that players get to play in their home country, get visibility for the NT, and visibility if they think they could go overseas and get better pay.

      • Steglitz49

        Women’s soccer world-wide needs a thriving and dynamic NWSL. It needs for that NWSL to grow and develop feeder leagues to the top division. Though Germany and Japan have won the World Cup, should the NWSL stutter, wither and perish, then all ladies’ football everywhere is bang in trouble.

        The issue for the NWSL and USSoccer and their marketers is to mobilize the nation so people go to the matches. The quality of the soccer these women play is awesome. It is the best in the world.

        As usual in a start-up phase you need people who will come along out of loyalty. People who do not care a fig about women’s soccer but understand that to get sponsorship the stands have to be filled to overflowing. Such a commitment for the next 3 years is not to ask too much (not least when they will see top-notch football).

        If the WNT does poorly in Canada and Brazil, it is curtains anyway.

    • Weston John

      Only way for the salaries to increase is for fans to support their teams by going to games, buying merchandise and watching games when they’re on television or streaming to increase ratings. It’s the beautiful game, but it’s also a business enterprise.

      • Steglitz49

        Hear hear!

    • Steglitz49

      To have a fully professional side in USA you probably need a salary budget of $1.6m, maybe even $2m.

      Assume that you want to pay one player $250k, two players $200k, three players $70k, and 5 players $50k plus $30k to three who are mainly substitutes, then you would have a salary bill of $1.2m. To that you need to add hidden employment costs, not least health insurance. That makes it at least $1.6m before you pay for the second 11 against whom they practice.

      Though some clubs in Europe pay some of their players handsomely by women’s standards, as far as I know only teams like Lyon, PSG, Potsdam and Frankfurt get to such levels, though the budgets of teams subsidized by their men’s side are not well defined.

      • Anton

        Yep. MLS’ salary cap is a shy under $3M. But with the league growing, the cap will eventually go up with it.

        Take the Sounders for example, their 3 designated players are all over $350k, ($4M being the highest), seven players making at least $100K (the highest being $275K), seven players making at least $45k and nine players making $44k or less (the lowest being $33k).

        Do women’s clubs in Europe have salary caps? Or are they like the men’s clubs… i.e. spend as much as you want.

        • Steglitz49

          As far as I know, there are no salary caps in Europe. The best paid, like Schelin and Necib earn about 200k€ + the use of a small apartment and small car. PSG are, probably, the second biggest payers.

          Some of the Japanese players who play abroad receive money in Japan from local sources, so players like Ogimi and Kumagai do not cost their foreign teams as much as one might think. This may account for the lower salary budgets of Potsdam and Frankfurt.

          In England, Liverpool (owners Red Sox) and Chelsea have started buying foreign players, and Man City just voluntarily adopted a team of ladies,who had played in light blue and called themselves City, but then the Brits always had a soft spot for homeless dogs.

          • anon

            Wow, not offensive much that comment…themselves City, but then the Brits always had a soft spot for homeless dogs.

          • Steglitz49

            Tod Sweeney MC, one of those who made the Normandy landings a success by seizing the Horsa bridge in the early hours, became the Director General of the Battersea Dogs Home. (The capture of the Pegasus bridge is better known.) Stray dogs and cats spend less than 4 weeks at Battersea before they either are reunited with their owners or adopted by a new family.

            As for the lady footballers, it is worth remembering that Man Utd infamously closed its women’s division 8 years ago, so the adopting of these gallant ladies by City is a step in the right direction.

  • vert2013

    $6,000 is semi-pro salary plain and simple.

    • Steglitz49

      Verily. Most women players in Europe and Japan earn next to nothing. Some teams pay a match bonus which can be as little as $250 per match. The by womens standards high earners like Ms Schelin, Necib and Rapinoe are the exceptions rather than the rule.

      In men’ football the last time semi-pro teams won anything was 25-30 years ago. With the wealthy men’s teams in Europe putting more money to their ladies, the landscape of women’s soccer may be about to change, and not necessarily for the better.

    • And lots of the players will do what they can to make side money. I think we’ve heard the teams can’t pay them for doing camps & such as a way to circumvent the salary cap (which is silly — even NCAA players can make money as long as they are working, not playing), but I’m guessing the better known players who have their own camps will hire their teammates. There may also be introductions to youth teams that can employee them.

      It’s a semipro lifestyle, but that’s the sports landscape. It’s better than what the best US & Canadian women make in their top North American league.

      • Steglitz49

        I put it to you that if we want to see the quality of football on display in WC-11, lady players need to be professionals and not gentlemen.

        We are not talking about making $770k in a year, like Tora Berger the lady biathlete made this last season, but the punishment has to fit the crime.

  • whatwasshethinking

    $6000 is definitely not a surprise. I just appreciate the players that do play for that amount, even though a lot of those players probably aren’t contributing much to their team besides playing a cone in practice. I think it’s just bad when some players might try to unionize saying there needs to be a higher minimum salary (not sure if theres a nwsl players union). They need to understand, if there’s a market for women’s soccer that succeeds more people can make money including them, and when it’s failed several times, because of huge pay days, they’ve got to start as a start-up with low costs as much as possible

    I think the saddest part in all this are the number of Mex Allocations that keep getting pulled. Rather sad for those mex-american girls.

    • Steglitz49

      Has the Mexican FA no money? Or, are they concerned that their allocated players will not get play time (so why waste the little cash they have)?

    • Were any of the dropped players Mexican-American? I haven’t seen the full list, but I thought it was mostly the non-US based Mexicans who were dropped. Maybe a problem with visas because of the low pay?

  • Wear Nikes Drink Gatorade

    With salaries not at all being an issue for players, it is great that Rapinoe decided to keep her allocation spot (and with it, one of the largest salaries available) while playing at Lyon for most of the season.

    • vert2013

      The US allocation was still short a spot anyway because Kling pulled out at the last minute. If Sermanni had a waiting list of players, it wouldn’t have been left empty therefore Pinoe isn’t really using up anyones money it just would have been 2 empty spots instead of 1.

  • Anton

    If this league goes as well as we all hope it does, minimum player salaries will rise over time. Eventually, things like a TV deal and league sponsors will create revenue and make the league more valuable. $6,000 is basically insulting, but they’re doing it right this time it seems, you can’t start a league and hand out $25K salaries to everyone.

    • Steglitz49

      “… as we all hope it does …”. Hope spring eternal but it won’t cut the mustard. “Women soccer players expect every woman do their duty”, to travestize a great womanizer, by going along to the matches and help the NWSL get off to a flying start.

      Anyone else, who lives within spitting distance of a stadium should hasten along too.

  • sol1711

    as you get into the german women football bundesliga but more money.

    but the players are not the problem.

    earn the most money in the american women soccer, get the functionaries and the trainer.

    but salary limit the club owner will not last long, because when the spectators fail they are trying to pay stars.

    but stars are expensive, above all german.

  • spike

    NWSL need to be supported by MSL fans etc to survive.

    • Steglitz49

      Does MLS have any spare cash? Does MLS welcome the competition?

      • Anton

        MLS and the NWSL aren’t (and shouldn’t be) in competition with each other. If they were, this league would go down the same path as WUSA. And yes, MLS does have spare cash, the league is very healthy right now.

        The only competition between MLS/NWSL will be who scores more goals, the Timbers or the Thorns….

        • Steglitz49

          Good ladies’ soccer teams flourish essentially in two environments. One is where there is no men’s team or the local men’s team is useless. The other is where a wealthy men’s club gives them succor.

          If an MLS team were to give a NWSL team $4m each year, what proportion would that represent?

          • sol1711


          • Steglitz49

            I presume that you mean that no MLS team has $4m to subsidize a ladies’ side?

          • Anton

            As I said in another post, MLS’ salary cap is a shy under $3M, how would spending $4M on a women’s team make any sense? Yes, the league is probably as healthy as it’s ever been, but there’s a reason there is no WMLS.

            I respect your stance that you feel that women’s players should be paid higher, I agree, but they’re never going to be paid to the likes of the male players. It’s just the nature of the beast.

          • Steglitz49

            If you want a professional women’s league, then you have to pay enough for players to live on and to be able to put aside for a rainy day. What male footballers command today is ridiculous and I suspect historically it will represent an absurd peak in pay.

            A lady has only about 10 years of paid play of which maybe 5 would be at the very top. Income varies from state to state but $40k per year would be a goal for a starting player, a few good players ought to get $80k and the odd very top players $200 and even $250k, maybe one day $500k for the truly outstanding with pulling-power like Ms Morgan.

            There are various statistics such as household income or personal income and you can split by state. I have seen figures that the median household income were NJ $68k, MA $64k, OR $48k and WA $57k.

      • sol1711

        stieglitz49 has no idea, he’s a stupid rattler.

  • sol1711

    in frankfurt and potsdam is just good payd as in lyon or psg.

    wolfsburg budget will increase in 2014 to 4 millionen euro, 5,6 millionen dollar.

    bayern will also equip its 2014 women division with more money.
    leonie meyer comes to bayern münchen.s

    • Steglitz49

      Vow! Or, do I mean VW?

      High time for Porsche to start sponsoring? Or do I mean MAN?

      • sol1711

        wolfsburg is vw, audi, porsche, rolls royce, lamboghini, seat, skoda, bugatti
        and the ceo from vw is president of vfl wolfsburg.

        • Steglitz49

          What do the girls drive? Mazda 3?

          • sol1711

            stupid idiot, she drive vw

          • Steglitz49

            Not a Miata? The she-wolves ought to be in Bugattis.

          • sol1711

            stupid american, keine ahnung vom fussball, aber das maul aufreissen.
            du weisst garnichts alles was du ihr schreibst ist erfunden oder gelogen.
            keine diskussion mehr mit stieglitz49.
            google mal welche automarken zu vw gehören.

  • Disappointing but unsurprising. It’s pretty well-established that in team sports, on average, women earn about 1/4 of what the average man would. If the MLS average salary is in the $70k range, then it makes sense the average NWSL salary would be in the $15-20k range.

    • Steglitz49

      It depends. Lotta Schelin is Sweden’s best paid woman footballer. She earns about 200k€ per year. Zlatan is Sweden’s best paid male footballer. He earns about 13m€ per year. That is 65x as much, not 4x as much.

      In the ski sports (alpine, X-country and biathlon) the prize money has been the same for many years but the endorsement income varies of course. (Petter Northug gives all his bonus money to charity. He always has done.)

      American male MLS players are at best 3rd level figures, little more than the practice cones on the field, while American lady players are consistently among the world’s very best. Yet, I do not doubt you when you type that those dwarfs earn more than the snow-whites who are lucky not to get a poisoned apple.

      • Anton

        That’s really not a great comparison, Zlatan is one of the best strikers in the world, Schelin is very good, but I wouldn’t say she’s elite. It also doesn’t help that Zlatan plays for PSG, who’ll overpay by a (more than) few million to get who they want.

        Lets be safe to say that you don’t have the slightest clue about MLS. Calling them ‘a little more than practice cones’ is incredibly ignorant.

        • Steglitz49

          I do not know how much Alex Morgan earns but even if she earned as much as Tora Berger did this season, it would still be about 1/20th of what Zlatan earns.

          The USA’s ladies reached the last world cup final and have collected the last two Olympic golds, plus the U-20 gold. I do not know what the USA men have done.

          • Anton

            But again, you can’t compare any women’s player salary to Zlatan. His pay is inflated by the Qatari Royals at PSG. With all her endorsements and such, I’m pretty sure Alex earned herself at least $1-2M last year, Clint Dempsey made $7M in 2012, that’s much closer to the 4x higher pay that Victor was leaning towards.

            I’m not getting into that argument of MNT vs. WNT, it’s pointless. But I’m confused, you said MLS players were basically trash, when that’s not true at all, how did that turn into ‘the WNT wins everything and the men do nothing’? What is your agenda here?

          • Steglitz49

            You need to compare apples with apples and not oranges, and you need to separate between base salary and bonuses. For example, when you take bonuses into account the male earnings apparently are: Messi $45m, Beckham $42m, Ronaldo $40m, Eto’o $31m, Rooney $28m and Zlatan $26m. However, by base salary the order is different with Eto’o $26m, Zlatan $19.5m, Rooney $19m and Messi $15m.

            Your estimate of Alex Morgan earning $1-2M is a very broad range and I doubt that she earns $2M. Even so it is a fraction of what her male equivalents pull in before endorsements. I do not know what Messi’s or Beckham’s endorsements earn them. A lot, I presume. It is with those you must compare Alex Morgan.

          • Anton

            You’re going on about comparing apples to apples but then say you must compare Alex Morgan to Lionel Messi. No female player should be compared to a male player and vise versa, it’s not fair to either of them. Compare Alex with Marta, Sinclair and such because that’s who she’s playing with/against, not Messi.

          • Steglitz49

            This thread started as a comparison between men’s and women’s earnings.

            Because Alex Morgan is viewed as one of the top lady players in the world she must be compared with Messi, Ronaldo or Zlatan, and not some journeyman American MLS player.

            You are, of course, correct, that life is not fair.

      • sol1711

        what you write is stupid

        • Steglitz49

          Are you saying that American MLS players are better than Lahm, Müller and Schweinsteiger? The MLS may be paid more, though I doubt it.

          • sol1711

            haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
            no, mls players not better

            haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
            very very very very good joke
            haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

          • Anton

            No. Nobody’s saying that. But to act like there’s no talent in MLS is like I said, incredibly ignorant. There are a bunch of current MLS players that could hack it in Europe’s top 4 leagues.

            No, MLS players aren’t paid more than Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Muller, only 9 players in MLS make more than $1M, the highest being Henry at $5.6M.

          • Steglitz49

            I thought that David Beckham was the highest paid player in the MLS. Henry is the international French player who played for Arsenal and Barcelona. They are not Americans.

            The NWSL does not even have the money to hire players like Miyama, Kessler or Asllani. The failed leagues had the world’s top foreign players in them, yet they were not financially viable.

            There are sports where women and men earn the same but the endorsement incomes is much higher for men than women. There are sports, such as figure skating and gymnastics, that are totally dependent on the ladies. In most sports men earn much more than the ladies.

            The critical point is that the USA has many of the world’s very best women soccer players — and cannot pay them a living wage.

  • Paul Atkinson

    As fans we can be as offended as we want about this (and I am), but action beats outrage any day.

    What action can fans take? Easy: go to games. Bring friends to games. Buy someone a ticket who’s on the fence…they’ll thank you later. In short: fill the stadiums and watch the salaries increase both from ticket sales and from increased coverage and the sponsorship that comes with it.

    Support means more than cheering. It means doing what’s needed in the stands to bring out the best on the pitch, and in this nascent league that means evangelization. Post on Facebook and Twitter, tell people how excited you are to attend matches, post links to the streaming coverage. Growing the league is the best thing we can do for our players.


    • Steglitz49

      Hear hear!

      • sol1711

        stupid american, schwachkopf

        • Steglitz49

          What is your solution for getting a healthy viable professional ladies’ football league?

  • slowleftarm

    Your info on Lyon is a few years out of date. Otherwise, thanks for the article!

    • What exactly is out of date?

      • Lorehead

        My apologies for contacting you this way, but I don’t have better contact information for you or your staff, and my cyberstalker, whom I’m not going to feed any further, is unlikely to see this. Please feel free to delete it when you’ve decided how to handle the matter.

        A deranged person has followed me here and also has made thinly-veiled death threats against me. I don’t take him that seriously; he has no idea who I am. But I don’t want to have to deal with him, so it’s him or me. Sorry.

  • Amber

    6K for five months would be below minimum wage if counted hourly. It’s pretty insulting… no wonder most of the better players are playing overseas.

    • Steglitz49

      The question is: Why pay to watch women’s soccer? (Not, why watch women play soccer but why pay for the pleasure?) Many women club players in Europe earn nothing or next to nothing.

      Yesterday I watched Man City play Barca on the box. It cost me nothing. The quality of the play was amazing. OK, it did not really cost nothing because the sponsors recoup their money buy charging their customers more.

      The winter Olympics has been under way for a while. The last bastion of the MCPs is the ski-jumping (and with it the Nordic combined). The Free-style events are also under MCP control because the course is built to be challenging for the men which means it is dangerous for the ladies.

      If women want to be paid to play soccer, they must convince people to attend their matches and pay for the pleasure. With good attendances sponsors might be brought on board. The NWSL clubs have good attendances compared to European teams. Nevertheless, if you want a woman soccer player to earn $25,000 per year at their club, even just paying 20 players that makes $500k per year + employment costs.

      With 15 home games and $30 profit per spectator, you need ca 1,500 in the stands for each game and then find sponsors who pay for the coaches, the travel, the training centre etc etc. The worst NWSL team averaged ca 1500 per match last year, so there is hope!