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National Women's Soccer League boosts salaries, but they're still a fraction of what men earn

Thomas Barrabi

The National Women’s Soccer League will boost its player salaries and allow teams to make larger offers to attract top international talent as it looks to build on signs of recent growth for its 2020 season.

The league increased its cap on the combined salaries of all players on a team to $650,000 for the 2020 season, up from $421,000 in 2019. The maximum salary per player increased to $50,000 from $46,200, while the minimum salary increased to $20,000 from $16,538.

The league will also allow its nine teams to use up to $300,000 in allocation money toward signing players outside the U.S. and Canada whose salaries would otherwise exceed the $50,000 maximum. Major League Soccer has used a similar clause to allow its teams to sign top European stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who earns a league-record $7.2 million salary despite its maximum salary of $530,000 for rank-and-file players.

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“The league’s owners are committed to investing in our world-class players,” said Women's Soccer League President Amanda Duffy. “This is an important step in the growth of the league from which every NWSL player, current and future, will benefit, and these changes will further enhance the league’s global leadership in the women’s game.”

The salary tweaks follow the organization's most successful season since its founding in 2012. The league added its fifth major sponsor, Budweiser.

Average attendance rose nearly 22 percent to more than 7,000 fans per game, bolstered by the U.S. women’s national team’s second straight World Cup victory. Many national team players are also active in the NWSL.

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Women's compensation still trails far behind that of Major League Soccer, the organization of male teams, which recently added two expansion franchises that paid a $200 million fee for the right to join. Major League players had an average base salary of $371,538 for the 2019 season, with several players earning multimillion-dollar salaries.

Women's Soccer League allocation money can be used in some instances for domestic players, such as any player who earns MVP, Golden Boot, Rookie of the Year or Defender of the Year honors. For international players, the allocation money will be used to cover both transfer fees and salary.

The league will also remove limits on the number of guaranteed contracts allowed per team and the amount teams spend on other benefits such as housing.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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