NWSL, players’ association pursue first CBA

The National Women’s Soccer League and the NWSL Players Association have begun negotiations on the league’s first collective bargaining agreement.

“The sustainability of our League is inextricably linked to the stability of players’ careers,” players association executive director Meghann Burke said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Through this CBA, we seek to secure stability, equity, and longevity of a playing career in NWSL for all players.”

The collective bargaining process began in late 2020, the league said. The two sides had already worked together on issues including player health and safety and pay ahead of last summer’s Challenge Cup, played in a bubble in Utah. The NWSL was the first professional U.S. team sports league to return amid the coronavirus pandemic. Players who opted out of the tournament for personal reasons were still guaranteed salaries and insurance.

“The collaboration between the league’s clubs and the players has been absolutely critical to our collective success this past year,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said. “On building on that trust and partnership, and I’m very glad to be working with Meghann Burke in her new role as the director, I think we’re all eager to better define the relationship between the league and the extraordinary women that take the pitch each week. I’m grateful to the PA’s leadership thus far in thoughtfully engaging in this process.”

The players association announced Monday that Burke, the union’s general counsel since 2017 and chief operating officer since last year, would take over as full-time executive director.

The players association was founded in 2017 and serves as the bargaining representative for all NWSL players who are not allocated by the U.S. and Canadian national teams.

“I’m just really proud of the players and the union, and the leadership from the players to drive this forward, because a league that is better for everybody playing in it is certainly going to be better for everyone that comes after us as well,” Portland Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg said. “We love to play soccer. We’re passionate about it. We want to be soccer players for as long as we can. But also we know that we are leaving a legacy behind. And this is one way that we can ensure that sports for women is left in a better place than when we found it.”

The NWSL has 10 teams and will open its ninth season May 15. The league kicks off its preseason Challenge Cup tournament Friday.

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