Football Americana

USWNT star Becky Sauerbrunn explains how domestic 'stability' paved the way for new CBA

Chris Smith
Sauerbrunn played a key role in the CBA negotiations.
Sauerbrunn played a key role in the CBA negotiations. / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Becky Sauerbrunn has revealed how the increased stability of women's domestic leagues played a key role in the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations.

In a first-of-its-kind agreement in world soccer, players from both the United States Women's and Men's National Teams will be paid identical game bonuses and appearance fees, as well as sharing the sum of prize money from their respective World Cup runs.

Perhaps even more eye-catching was the USWNT moving away from their traditional yearly salaried contracts - paid by the US Soccer Federation - toward the 'pay-to-play' structure already adopted by the men.

This was seen as a huge risk by many given the historical disparities in pay between women's and men's professional soccer leagues. But Sauerbrunn, who played a key role in the CBA negotiations, has championed the increasing 'stability' of leagues like the NWSL and WSL, allowing the USWNT to move to this more profitable model.

"I would say the need for contracts had always been because the stability of our professional league was always up in the air," the 203-time US international told 90min's Football Americana podcast.

"We felt that, if you wanted players to be able to play soccer and concentrate on being just a soccer player, we needed some sort of contract. And because our professional teams weren't able to provide that, potentially because there wasn't even a professional league or because the teams couldn't afford it, we needed it to come from somewhere.

"And so US Soccer took the burden on of those contracts. And now, with this new CBA, we've gotten to a point where our leagues are so stable and we're able to make a livable wage from the leagues and from our professional teams that we are more easily able to go to a pay-to-play model, which is what the men have been doing from, I imagine, the inception of their program, certainly for the last several, several decades."

Yael Averbuch West hosts Portland Thorns and USWNT figure Becky Sauerbrunn for the latest episode of Football Americana. The iconic player revealed her take on the future of the NWSL and which players she thinks will become revolutionary. Sauerbrunn also explained the CBA, and the impact it may have on future players everywhere. Tune in to hear the latest on US sports.

Another factor, according to Sauerbrunn, was the difference in bonus structures between the two teams, with the USWNT not receiving comparable payments for wins, draws, losses, and appearances, or having payments tiered depending on the quality of opposition.

That was another issue worked out in the new CBA, meaning the Women's team were even more confident in moving to a new structure.

"In the past, because US Soccer had never offered us a contract that was similar to the men's in the respect that the same tiering of team that we played against, the amount of money for a win, a loss, a tie, or for a game appearance, because those were never similar, we never really felt that we could afford to go to a pay-to-play," Sauerbrunn elaborated.

"But now, because this new CBA is offering the same rate of pay, the same opportunity, it makes a huge difference for us. So it was easier to change now, just with US Soccer agreeing to equal pay. That makes a huge difference. And then I'll also say, again, the stability of the leagues."

Of course, the one downside to adopting this structure will be that if you don't get a call-up to the National Team, you won't get paid. However, Sauerbrunn hopes this won't do much to change the level of commitment from players who should already have been giving their all to earn their right despite being contracted.

"I would always hope that players are trying to do those things, regardless, and are always trying to perform at their absolute best," she said.

"Could there have been players over the years that knew that they were contracted and didn't feel like they had to perform as well during the league? Potentially, but I would really hope, in the players' heart of hearts, they were all doing the right things.

"But yeah, now, absolutely, with this new CBA, the onus will be on performances with your club in order to earn a call-up."