Members of the U.S. women’s national team and U.S. Soccer ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, both sides announced Wednesday.
The new deal is expected to cover a five-year period that includes both the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I am incredibly proud of this team and the commitment we have shown through this entire process,” said national team midfielder Megan Rapinoe. “While I think there is still much progress to be made for us and for women more broadly, I think the [Women’s National Team Players Association] should be very proud of this deal and feel empowered moving forward.”
The deal replaces a working arrangement that was a source of contention long before it officially expired on Dec. 31.
U.S. Soccer filed suit against the players’ association early last year as part of a disagreement over a memorandum of understanding that governed the interaction between the two parties since the expiration of the previous CBA in 2012. A court ultimately ruled in favor of the federation, removing the option of a work stoppage by players in advance of the 2016 Olympics.
Five high-profile members of the team — Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo — also filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March of 2016 that alleged wage discrimination by U.S. Soccer.
The EEOC complaint has yet to be resolved, and it was not immediately clear what effect the new agreement would have on that process. A spokeswoman for the players’ association said that the organization was “unable to comment on the EEOC at this time.”
The deal is expected to include significant increases in both direct and bonus compensation for national team players, as well as per diems equal to the men’s national team, enhanced travel benefits and increased financial support for players who are pregnant or adopting. Among additional financial implications, the WNTPA gains licensing and sponsorship rights.
As part of the agreement, U.S. Soccer will continue its commitment to pay the National Women’s Soccer League salaries of national team players allocated to the professional league entering its fifth season. National team players will commit to playing in the NWSL. That would not necessarily eliminate a split-season scenario as undertaken by Lloyd and Morgan this year. Both stars are currently in Europe — Lloyd with Manchester City; Morgan with Lyon — but are expected to return to the NWSL in June.
The new agreement requires improvements in NWSL standards, although it was not clear what measurement will be used to monitor progress. The NWSL has outlasted previous attempts at a domestic professional league and recently signed a new media partnership with A+E Networks. But it remains a target of criticism for, among other issues, low wages for nonallocated players.
“We believe this is another important step to continue our longstanding efforts to drive the growth of women’s soccer in the United States,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said of the CBA. “This agreement helps to ensure the strength of the women’s national team, provide stability and growth potential for the National Women’s Soccer League, and over time strengthen the elite player development process at the grassroots level. We believe our continued partnership will ensure a bright future for our sport for years to come.”
The agreement comes days after the resolution of another high-profile labor dispute involving the U.S. women’s hockey team and as members of the Irish women’s national soccer team refuse to train in a disagreement over compensation and working conditions in that country.
The U.S. national team plays two games against Russia this week in Texas — at Toyota Stadium in Frisco on Thursday and at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on Sunday.