In just a matter of weeks, the 11th season of the National Women’s Soccer League will commence. This year however, something is different. At the end of the 2022 season, NWSL players with six years in the league became free agents. For the first time, these players had the ability to negotiate with teams across the league, an historic first achieved through the collective bargaining agreement that highlights the mutual commitment required between players and teams for the continued growth of the league.
“At its core, free agency is the freedom to choose where we work, and we’ve never had that before” Tori Huster, the president of the NWSL Players Association told The Equalizer. “I chose to stay at the Washington Spirit, and it was very empowering.”
Huster was one of 23 NWSL players that chose to stay with their team. Out of the remaining 22 players, 12 signed with new teams, one retired, one moved to a new league and seven remain unsigned to a new club.
“[The first year of free agency] was kind of like a draft — it could be the wild, wild west, and you never know what is going to happen,” Huster said. “All the buzz was fun, even as a player, seeing where others were going to end up was thrilling.”
For Meghann Burke, the executive director of the NWSLPA, the race to sign Debinha was among the most tantalizing aspects of the free agency period and highlights the future of the league. “You’re seeing how important free agency is to the future of the NWSL. That Debinha chooses to come back to the NWSL and play for Kansas City, she doesn’t do that without free agency,” Burke told The Equalizer. “Once we get through this first season, I think clubs in the league will eventually start to see that this is the way of the future.”
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