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Fifth free agents don’t cut it as compensation

Amy LePeilbet will miss six-to-eight months following left ACL surgery. (Photo Copyright: Meg Linehan, Equalizer Soccer)

Half of the eight NWSL teams have received the right to sign a fifth free agent as compensation for allocated national team players missing time with their respective teams.

The fifth free agents have been granted to each team as compensation for having allocated players miss partial or full seasons. It’s a nice gesture and, in some cases where hands are tied, possibly sufficient.

But in the cases of the Western New York Flash and the Chicago Red Stars, the fifth free agent doesn’t cut it as just compensation and that’s because each team — and all four teams granted that fifth free agency slot — will be paying for the additional player out of pocket. The NWSL has granted each team extra cap space, but not the cash with which to buy the player.

Amy Rodriguez’s pregnancy seemed to shock everyone, including Seattle. The National Women’s Soccer League (quite obviously) can’t control the fact that she will miss the entire season for Seattle Reign FC. Nor can the league predict the ongoing uncertainty surrounding when U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Mexican defender Alina Garciamendez will be available.

Developments in both of those scenarios occurred following allocation (though in Seattle’s case, it was known over a month ahead of time that Megan Rapinoe would be headed to Lyon until June).

But the Flash were shorted from the start, having received six allocated players to every other teams’ seven. Sure, as it stands, all six of those players (including Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Veronica Perez) will actually be in Western New York for the start of the season, which is more than can be said for at least three other teams. No matter how you shake it out, though, the Flash have to pay for an extra player out of pocket.

The U.S., Mexican and Canadian federations are paying the salaries of the allocated players. Seven of a team’s maximum of 20 rostered players are then taken out of the cap, with the exception of Western New York. The Flash have six, leaving them accountable for 14 salaries from the beginning.

In Chicago’s case, it was widely known behind the scenes prior to allocation that Amy LePeilbet had a knee issue (we touched on it here on Jan. 1) and that there was a possibility she would miss the season. The team confirmed on Jan. 28 that she would have left ACL surgery and miss six-to-eight months, or essentially the entire season, barring a speedy recovery.

The logic of which teams get extra free agency spots (and how many spots) remains open to debate. Should Portland receive a fifth free agent slot for losing Tobin Heath to PSG until June? Does Seattle deserve a sixth and seventh slot, since it lost Rodriguez for the season as well as Rapinoe and Teresa Noyola until June?

At this stage, free agents are signed (many are still secrets), so compensating teams with cash for at least pre-existing and known scenarios seems the most logical option. The two chief qualifiers for that are Western New York’s shortage of allocated players and Chicago being allocated LePeilbet, whose knee status at the time of allocation was at the very least questionable.

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