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NWSL allocation money is even more convoluted than you thought

Photo Copyright Lewis Gettier for The Equalizer


BALTIMORE — When the National Women’s Soccer League announced their new allocation money framework last November, the system seemed straightforward. Each NWSL team could “purchase” up to $300,000 per year from the league to pay player salaries in excess of the newly increased $50,000 maximum player salary, thus establishing a means to retain existing high-profile players and attract new, higher-priced talent into the league.

The allocation money could only be used in conjunction with players whose contracts exceeded the league maximum salary, and the players had to meet one of six enumerated criteria, including international players with more than three caps for their national team in the prior two years and NWSL MVPs, Golden Boot winners, Rookies of the Year, Defenders of the Year, and Best XI and Second XI honorees over the previous two years. Allocation money cannot be used on national players under contract and being paid by U.S. Soccer or the Canadian Soccer Federation, long referenced as “allocated players” (no relation).

As the 2020 NWSL College Draft played out Thursday in Baltimore, the breadth and scope of allocation money’s full impact on the league began to emerge, both openly and beyond public pronouncements. A flurry of trades before and during the draft involved teams acquiring allocation money as an element of the transaction. For instance, the Chicago Red Stars acquired the second and third overall picks from Sky Blue FC for just the fourth and fifth overall picks … and “allocation money.” Then Chicago flipped the second pick to the Portland Thorns for just two second rounds picks and—you guessed — allocation money.

“I think the allocation money has a lot of different uses,” said Red Stars head coach Rory Dames.

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