In a week full of breakthroughs in the fight for equality in women’s sports around the globe, news that included the US Women’s Hockey team succesfully negotiating a new contract, the Irish Women’s National Soccer team taking a stand for better treatment, and brand new CBA for the USWNT, the National Women’s Soccer League released some good news of their own. The premiere league for women’s soccer, often considered the best professional league in the world, has once again stepped up their game when it comes to paying the players that make the league so fun to watch. Jeff Kassouf of Four Four Two reported that the minimum salary has been raised to a $15,000, a number that marks a significant increase when considering the historical minimums.
New min/max NWSL salaries:
$15,000 / $41,700
2016: $7,200 / $39,700
2015: $6,842 / $37,800
2014: $6,600 / $31,500
2013: $6,000 / $30,000
— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) April 7, 2017
While still a very low number for a professional athlete, the increase from $7,200 should not be discounted. This shows that the NWSL has taken the concerns about the lower range of their pay scale seriously, albeit in small steps. Most importantly, it is a significantly larger increase from 2016 to 2017 than any other year to date. From 2013 to 2016 the minimum salary rose a total of $1,200, compared to the $7,800 increase this season. This is great news for the rank and file of the NWSL, who should all see their compensation raised this year.
Meanwhile, the maximum pay rate was also raised, but at a much lower rate than the minimum. While many may argue that the big names should get a comparable pay raise to the lower players, the reasoning for the smaller increase can be found in the salary cap for this year.
#NWSL 2017 team salary cap: $315k spread across minimum 18 players
— thrace, teen scooter outlaw (@thrace) April 7, 2017
The NWSL has always been about keeping the overhead for the league low enough to be sustainable, something that has undoubtedly contributed to its survival into the fifth season where all other professional leagues in the USA have failed. The conservative salary cap increase reinforces this philosophy. It also means that for the minimum pay to receive such a significant bump, the money had to come from somewhere.
Despite the continuing trends of conservatism in salaries, this news is very exciting for a couple of reasons. One, and I can’t stress this enough, it is nearly impossible to live for a year on $7,200. When these numbers came out last year, the general feeling was that the increase wasn’t nothing, but it also wasn’t sufficient. This increase in the minimum salary – while still not exactly a living wage for a full year – is much, much closer to being workable. If this trend of increasing the minimum salary so drastically continues, the lower players in the league could be looking at very respectable salaries within a few years.
Second, this means the league is growing and there is more money to go around. In light of the Lifetime deal, and the promise of better marketing and media league wide, fans can only expect much more growth in the next few years. The NWSL is on its way and I, for one, am very excited to see where it goes next.