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Volume 22 No. 18
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WPS sets salary cap, U.S. team guarantees

Women’s Professional Soccer has agreed to a standard player contract with U.S. women’s national team players that will guarantee national team players a minimum salary of $40,000 a year and impose a $565,000 salary cap on teams, industry sources say.

League and player representatives declined to comment about salaries or the cap.

The agreement, which took nearly a year to complete, allows the league to move forward with contract negotiations for some of its star players like Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly. It is scheduled to kick off its inaugural season March 29.

“This is a tent pole for the league to have the members of the U.S. women’s national team’s contracts secured,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “They will be stars of this league and have been core to our strategy from day one.”

Attorney John Langel, who represented the players, said, “It took time, but we were always moving in the right direction. In the end, we got an agreement that works for both sides.”

U.S. women’s national team players will have
a $40,000 minimum in the fledgling WPS.

While the national team’s average salary will be higher, the league’s average salary will be around $32,000 for a seven-month playing contract, according to the league.

In addition to setting a salary cap and minimum salary for national team players, WPS and players reached an agreement on injury protection and marketing rights. Players will receive one year of injury protection from their respective team from the date of an injury. Players also preserved the right to approve or disapprove participation in any marketing deal. As a result, a sponsor cannot use a player’s image in promotion of their brand or product without that player’s permission.

The league and players also reached an agreement on licensing. Individual players are guaranteed a percentage of any licensing deals that rely on the use of their image. The percentage that players are guaranteed could not be obtained.

The standard player contract functions as a starting point for contract negotiations between players and WPS teams. Because WPS isn’t a single-entity league, players and their agents will negotiate the terms of their contracts with each individual team.

“The important thing is that these players, even though they’re not Mia (Hamm) or Julie (Foudy), still take responsibility for protecting not only their own rights but the rights of the players in the league,” said Dan Levy, a Wasserman Media Group agent who represents 10 women’s players, including Wambach and O’Reilly. “This is a good agreement and one that will serve all the players going forward.”

WPS general counsel Vicki Veenker handled the league’s negotiations. Langel works at Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll LLP. He also represents players in negotiations with the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Once the league begins play, the players will have the opportunity to form a union. They were precluded from doing so this year because the league did not exist. If the players unionize, Langel hopes that the standard player agreement he worked to create serves as a template for a future collective-bargaining agreement.