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NWSL minimum and maximum salaries, team caps each rise 5-10% in 2021

ISI Photos/Roy K. Miller

The National Women’s Soccer League increased its minimum player salary to $22,000 and its maximum player salary to $52,500 for the 2021 season, continuing the trend of modest increases for the eighth straight year. The team salary cap rose 5% to $682,500 for rosters which must be between 22 and 24 first-team players.

The league maximum salary represents a 5% increase from $50,000 in 2020. The league maximum has increased each year since the inaugural season in 2013, when the maximum was $30,000. Teams can now pay players over the league maximum by accessing and spending allocation money. Each team can access up to $400,000 in allocation money in 2021, up from $300,000, which was the initial amount introduced when the concept was rolled out in late 2019. Teams which miss the playoffs can access an additional $100,000 the following year.

A $22,000 minimum salary marks a 10% rise from 2020. The minimum has increased each season. It should be noted, however, that the 2021 NWSL competition calendar is easily the longest in the league’s history, with a 10-week preseason beginning Feb. 1 and a championship scheduled for Nov. 20. That inaugural season, when the minimum was just $6,000, kicked off April 13 after a one-month preseason and ended with a championship on August 31, 2013, making this year’s competition roughly three months longer than the first.

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United States women’s national team players who are subsidized by the federation count against the cap as $33,000, while Canadian federation players count as $27,500. The Equalizer previously reported those numbers, along with the new league minimum and maximum salaries, and allocation-pot changes, in a March 3 story explaining how some U.S. players are now being paid directly by teams using allocation money.

The NWSL also introduced more standardized guidelines for subsidized perks when it rolled out allocation money in late 2019 as part of an attempt to better track housing, auto and other add-ons which some teams offered as ways to add significant value to contracts without taking salary-cap hits (the system is still more or less self-reporting).

This year, the per-player housing allowance is $3,000 per month, while the value of a car provided cannot exceed $50,000. (Team are also requires to pay for the car’s insurance.)

Teams are also allowed to compensate players for up to $750 per player per month ($5,000 annual cap per player household) for childcare expenses for kids up to age 13.

The Equalizer independently confirmed all numbers; the NWSL has yet to release its 2021 competition guidelines despite the Challenge Cup starting over a month ago (and since ending), and the regular season beginning on Saturday.

NWSL salary history

Year Player minimum Maximum Team cap
2013 $6,000 $30,000 $200,000
2014 $6,600 $31,500 $265,000
2015 $6,842 $37,800 $265,000
2016 $7,200 $39,700 $278,000
2017 $15,000 $41,700 $315,000
2018 $15,750 $44,000 $350,000
2019 $16,538 $46,200 $421,500
2020 $20,000 $50,000 $650,000
2021 $22,000 $52,500 $682,500

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