Ongoing legal battles between the United States national team the U.S. Soccer have recently called into question whether the team will strike ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games. Co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn said as much in a recent interview with former national team player turned ESPN reporter Julie Foudy.
But speaking Wednesday on a conference call to promote this weekend’s NWSL openers, Sauerbrunn said the litigation is with U.S. Soccer and has no bearing on the players’ participation in NWSL.
“The complaint that we filed is with U.S. Soccer and NWSL is a separate thing,” Sauerbrunn, of FC Kansas City, said. “We’re committed to playing in the league and everything else that deals with the national team and U.S. Soccer. We’re just excited for NWSL to start.”
One issue though. U.S. Soccer pays the salaries of 23 NWSL players. That visionary setup is widely credited with helping NWSL reach its fourth season where its two predecessors could not.
“I can’t speak for the entire team because it’s not something that we’ve discussed,” Sauerbrunn said when pressed. “We’ve only been focused on the complaint with our national team status. So it’s something that we haven’t really talked about.”
That second answer might not inspire much confidence within the NWSL fan base, but it could also be a tacit acknowledgement that players don’t think it will come to a walkout before the most transcendent sporting event on the planet.
Later in the call Sauerbrunn was asked what it would take to bring the players to the decision to skip the trip to Rio. She stonewalled, citing the nature of the conference call which was set up by NWSL.
“These are situations dealing with the complaint that we filed (against) U.S. Soccer. So since we’re speaking about the NWSL that’s pretty much what we’re focused on right here,” the three-time Defender of the Year said. “All the players are dedicated to our teams for right now on the pro level. Everything that’s going on with the national team is kind of separate. As far as negotiations and the CBA and stuff, that’s all national team stuff. We’re trying to see progress. And if we (don’t) see progress then we’ll make decisions from there. But for right now we’re with our teams in our cities and in our markets and we’re just focused the start of the season.”
NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush said the league is not privy to the daily details of the CBA negotiations and legal stalemates. He added that the league continues to have a strong relationship with U.S. Soccer and that the primary focus is on getting ready for the season.
“We have the 24 players in our league and that’s really great and we have a close relationship with the federation,” he said. “We have all the confidence that they’ll continue to manage that and come out of it with a resolution. We will continue to do what we’re doing and that’s working real hard on our 10 clubs and the season that is about to embark.
“We’re continuing to stay focused on what we’re in control of. I’m not going to get caught up in the things outside of our control.”
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