The National Women's Soccer League opened its first free agency period Friday amid a dispute over which players are qualified.
Players with expiring contracts and at least six years of service and are eligible for free agency for the first time under the collective bargaining agreement. The NWSL put out a list of 26 free agents, including national team players Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn.
Teams are allowed to negotiate with available players but cannot officially sign them until Nov. 15.
But the NWSL players' association says that the list should include players with an option year on their current contracts — adding an additional 22 players.
The league says those players aren't free agents until teams exercise their options, while the NWSLPA says any player who has six years of service with a standard player agreement should qualify.
"As someone who's been in this league since Day 1, it is extremely disappointing that the league is trying to obstruct our right to free agency," Angel City forward Jasmyne Spencer said in a statement. “Free agency was one of the most important issues that we fought for when negotiating the CBA. Players should have free autonomy over their careers.”
The dispute will be worked out in arbitration in September.
“In my first four months as commissioner, we have worked closely with the NWSLPA to resolve disagreements where possible and have had many instances where we have found solutions. However, we have always known that will not always be the outcome, particularly in a first-ever collective bargaining agreement between the parties, and that’s why labor agreements typically have neutral arbitrators to determine interpretation disputes. We look forward to the resolution of this open question in a respectful manner," NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said.
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Anne M. Peterson, The Associated Press