Alex Morgan
What do the USWNT's big changes to their representation mean for CBA negotiations?
Alex Morgan

What do the USWNT's big changes to their representation mean for CBA negotiations?

Published Feb. 3, 2017 5:31 p.m. ET

At this time last year, the players of the U.S. women's national team appeared to be gearing up for a major fight with U.S. Soccer. At the urging of Hope Solo, their outspoken goalkeeper, they were being represented by lawyer Rich Nichols, who took a hard line in negotiations for their expiring collective bargaining agreement.

Even before they had filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer in March alleging gender discrimination and unequal pay to the men's team, Nichols made it clear he would take an all-or-nothing approach. He first argued the players' existing CBA didn't even exist, which a judge disagreed with, before the team filed the discrimination lawsuit.

But the CBA expired in December and, since then, there has been little progress and reports of a highly contentious process. Solo, in the meantime, was kicked off the team, and the makeup of the USWNT itself was changing, too.

Now, the USWNT is changing course in a big, big way. Late Thursday night, the players union announced they've replaced their legal representation and have shaken up the union's structure, signaling a new tact in negotiations with U.S. Soccer.


Bredhoff & Kaiser have taken over as legal counsel, replacing Nichols, and Meghan Klingenberg, Christen Press, and Becky Sauerbrunn were elected the union's new player representatives this year. The group selected to negotiate the CBA has expanded too, with Sauerbrunn, Press, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and Samantha Mewis making up the committee.

"We believe there is a way for both parties to win, and in doing so, create a new sense of partnership moving forward," Press said in a statement. "We are committed to a thoughtful approach and are hopeful that USSF will work with us to create a fair future for the USWNT that emphasizes respect, equitable compensation, and partnership.”

The shift in tone is clear and significant. Instead of the combative approach under Nichols, the USWNT is looking to be more collaborative in hopes of getting closer to a deal. Part of that means the players are taking on bigger roles in shaping the CBA negotiations and the way the players union operates.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Sauerbrunn said the players will not make public any terms they are pushing for in the new CBA. But the latest comments from the players suggest they still have demands they want U.S. Soccer to meet, even as they are more willing to compromise.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has yet to rule on the wage discrimination complaint and the players have argued they've been underpaid by U.S. Soccer. Field quality has also been a high-profile issue, with the women being asked to play on artificial turf while the men's team never did – but there's already been a shift there. The women have been playing on grass in the past year and the USMNT will play Friday on turf for the first time in years. Players have also publicly complained about double standards in travel accommodations, win bonuses and other issues agreed to in prior CBAs.



Since their current CBA expired on December 31 and the terms rolled over, a players strike felt like a distinct possibility under Nichols as reports suggested a deal was far off. Although the players had not filed notice of their intention to strike, they refused to rule it out. But now, with the latest shake-ups, a deal without resorting to work-stoppage feels more likely than ever.

"The tone is just completely different, and everyone wants to get a deal done," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. "The players want to play. We want to have a fair CBA, so I have no doubt we'll get a deal done."

The USWNT will host the annual SheBelieves Cup against Germany, France and England in March and the NWSL season will start in April – and for the first time in a while, there doesn't seem to be much reason to doubt either will happen.



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