NWSL Round-Up: Compensation Changes, Re-Entry Wire, 2019 End of Year Awards

Last week, the National Women’s Soccer League announced a number of changes to its salary and compensation rules, starting with the 2020 season. (NWSL press release) The most significant changes were the introduction of Allocation Money for star players’ salaries above the league’s default maximum salary, the introduction of multi-year contracts and transfer fees, and an increase in the nominal salary cap to $650,000.

On Monday, the results of the Re-Entry Wire were announced, with five players being claimed by new teams.

Previously, end-of-season individual awards for the NWSL, and the NWSL Championship was held, with the North Carolina Courage repeating as champions after handily defeating the Chicago Red Stars 4-nil.


SALARY AND COMPENSATION RULE CHANGES

On November 1st, the NWSL announced a number of changes to its salary and compensation rules, as well as to its rules for how teams can deal with unclaimed free agents under its Discovery process.  For additional details about the NWSL’s salary and selection rules, see the NWSL’s Roster Rules page (which could be updated at any time).*

*The Wayback Machine also has a version of this page from March 2019, which lists the Salary Cap for 2018 at $350,00.

 

Salary Cap and Salary Details:

  • The Salary Cap for 2019 is $650,000, which is a nominal increase of over 19% from 2019. (Doing the math, that would make the 2018 cap $544,700, though on the current Roster Rules page, that cap is listed at $421,500.)
  • (Note: Under current Roster Rules, the Cap is normalized to 20 players)
  • The minimum salary is $20,000.
  • The maximum default salary is $50,000.
  • Teams may pay beyond the default salary for key players using Allocation Money
  • Housing Assistance is now guaranteed, whether through a team-provided residence or through a stipend, and uncapped.
  • Comment: With Housing Assistance uncapped and guaranteed, that should provide a more level playing field for cost-of-living differences among the team’s markets.

Allocation Money:

  • Teams can “buy” Allocation Money to increase the salaries of non-allocated players beyond the league’s default maximum salary.
  • Allocation Money can also be used to pay transfer fees in order to acquire teams from other leagues
  • For 2020, each team may purchase up to $300,000 in Allocation Money from the league.
  • For salaries, this Allocation Money can only be used on players who meet certain criteria:
    • NWSL Best XI or Second XI for either of the two most recent seasons (2019, 2018);
    • NWSL MVP, Golden Boot, Rookie of the Year or Defender of the Year winner for one of the two most recent seasons (2019, 2018);
    • International players who have more than three caps for their national team in the prior 24 months;
    • Domestic players who have completed at least five seasons in the NWSL;
    • Players who were formerly designated as allocated players by the U.S. or Canada (unless if the player refused the option to be allocated); or
    • Players previously on a contract that included allocation money.
  • Comment: It’s somewhat disappointing that Allocation Money can only be used for “star” players and not to increase the salaries of regular players.
  • Comment: Tying allocation money eligibility to a popularity contest such as the Best XI / Second XI award (as currently structured), especially for non-allocated domestic players.  Foreign players at least have a low bar to clear of 3 international caps in the previous 24 months, though there is a possibility that their national team coach unfairly freezes them out for non-sports reasons (e.g., Vero Bouquete or Estefanía Banini). However, the “previously on a contract…” clause should grandfather in any player who once was eligible.

Transfer Fees

  • USWNT Allocated Players may not be sold by NWSL teams
  • Teams are now allowed “to pay transfer fees to acquire players outside the NWSL”
  • Allocation Money must be used to pay the transfer fee
  • The transfer fee does not count against the salary cap
  • Teams are also allowed to sell their player rights to teams outside the NWSL
  • However, when selling, they can only keep an unspecified portion of the transfer fee if they give up retention rights (first choice when/if the player returns to NWSL)

Discovery List

  • (Note: This is for players who are waived and go unclaimed or are otherwise free agents.  Teams can temporarily claim players while trying to sign them to a contract. This partially helps to avoid a bidding war.)
  • The “Discovery period” is now perpetual, instead of having specific windows.
  • A team now has 44 days before another team can claim away a player, as a competing Discovery request can only be submitted 30 days after a previous request. Then, the earlier team has 14 days to sign that player. If the player is not signed by the earlier team, that player is then officially claimed by the later team as a Discovery player.

RE-ENTRY WIRE

This is the NWSL’s end-of-season waiver process for teams to release players that they do not want to retain for next season, either by not exercising an option to keep the player, not offering a new contract, or if the contract expired. Other teams can then claim the player, first based on a silent draft, where the tie-breaker is the reverse-order of finish in the league table. Players not claimed at this time essentially become free agents. (The NWSL’s Roster Rules page has all the specific rules, though it reeds like legalese, so it’s not always easy to follow.)

Five players were claimed by three teams:
Utah Royals FC:  Kyra Carusa, Cali Farquharson, Arielle Ship
Washington Spirit:  Kaycie Tillman
Orlando Pride:  Chloe Logarzo

Most notable of the five is Australia international Chloe Logarzo, who was released by the Washington Spirit and claimed by the Orlando Pride. Logarzo, age 24, was a member of Australia’s WWC squad in 2019 and their Olympic squad in 2016.

Kaycie Tillman, who was selected in the college draft by the NC Courage this year, is currently playing in the Netherlands for PSV, so it is unclear when or even if the former Florida State player may appear stateside in the NWSL.

Discovery Eligible (Players not under contract in the NWSL):

  • April Bockin (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Grace Cutler (Houston Dash)
  • Clare Polkinghorne (Houston Dash)
  • Kyah Simon (Houston Dash)
  • Julia Spetsmark (North Carolina Courage)
  • Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Jaycie Johnson (Reign FC)
  • Amandine Pierre-Louis (Sky Blue FC)
  • McKenzie Berryhill (Washington Spirit)
  • Megan Crosson (Washington Spirit)
  • Amy Harrison (Washington Spirit)
  • Elise Kellond-Knight (Washington Spirit)
  • Tiffany McCarty (Washington Spirit)
  • Shae Yanez (Washington Spirit)

Source: NWSLsoccer.com


NWSL END-OF-YEAR AWARDS

MVP: Sam Kerr (NWSL write-up)

This is Kerr’s second NWSL MVP award, after previously winning it for the 2017 season. She received 64.8% of the First Place votes. Debinha had the second-most First Place votes at 12.1%, but due to the ranked voting finished in fourth behind Yuki Nagasato and Kristen Hamilton, who had 8.2% and 8.5%, respectively. Lynn Williams had the fewest First Place votes at 6.4%.

Defender of the Year: Becky Sauerbrunn (NWSL write-up)

This is Sauerbrunn’s 4th DotY award, as she won the first three DotY awards (2013-2015) as part of the defunct FC Kansas City.  Sauerbrunn received 45.9% of the First Place votes, with Casey Short finishing in second place with 27.8% First Place votes. Lauren Barnes, Abby Erceg, and Jaelene Hinkle rounded out the voting with 13.5%, 6.7%, and 6.1% First Place votes, respectively.

Goalkeeper of the Year: Aubrey Bledsoe (NWSL write-up)

This is Bledsoe’s first GotY award.  She received 44.7% of the First Place votes, while Casey Murphy had 29.9% and Kailen Sheridan had 25.4%.

Rookie of the Year: Bethany Balcer (NWSL write-up)

Balcer received 57.9% of the First Place votes, while Sam Staab and Jordan DiBiasi received 22.5% and 19.6%, respectively. Due to the ranked voting, DiBiasi finished second overall.

 

Coach of the Year: Vlatko Andonovski (NWSL write-up)

This is Andonovski’s second CotY award, as he won the inaugural CotY award in 2013.  Andonovski received 52.8% of the First Place votes, while Raul Riley and Richie Burke had 27.1% and 20.1%, respectively.

 

NWSL Best XI and Second XI (NWSL write-up)

The First Team was dominated by USWNT WWC players, with only Sam Kerr (Australia) being the only foreign player, while outside back Casey Short and goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe were the only Americans not from the USWNT’s WWC squad in the Best XI.

Americans, except for New Zealand’s Abby Erceg and Japan’s Yuki Nagasato also dominated the Second XI. The most notable exclusion from the list was the Courage’s Debinha, who scored 8 goals and had 7 assists for the season in 19 matches.

2019 NWSL Best XI
Goalkeeper: Aubrey Bledsoe
Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper, Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Short
Midfielders: Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle
Forwards: Tobin Heath, Sam Kerr, Christen Press

2019 NWSL Second XI
Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher
Defenders: Lauren Barnes, Abby Erceg, Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett
Midfielders: Bethany Balcer, Crystal Dunn, Yuki Nagasato
Forwards: Kristen Hamilton, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe

Voting was weighed as follows: Fans (20%), Owners/GMs/Coaches (20%), Media (20%) and Players (40%).


NWSL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

Not too much to say about this match.  Debinha capitalized on early defensive mistakes to score for the Courage in the 4th minute, then the quality of the Courage just took over. Twenty minutes later Jessica McDonald headed home a Lynn Williams cross for an insurance goal.  Then, in first-half stoppage time, Crystal Dunn, in determinator mode, fought for a shot, and after falling down, popped backed up to slam in a statement goal.  In the second half, Sam Mewis headed in a fourth goal off a long assist from Abby Dahlkemper.

Goals: Debinha (4′), McDonald (26′), Dunn (45’+5), S. Mewis (61′)

If you missed the match, the NWSL page for this match has the ESPN broadcast video not geo-blocked.

The NWSL website also has a write-up on the retirement of USWNT veteran and NC Courage player Heather O’Reilly, who played 89 minutes in the championship match at outside back, before given a curtain call substitution.