A battle is being fought between the National Women’s Soccer League and the NWSL Players Association.

At 12:01 a.m. Friday, the free agency window will open for the first time in league history.

According to an NWSLPA press release, “This is a significant milestone for the NWSL, brought about by the solidarity and determination of players who believe that free agency is central to NWSL’s ability to live up to its potential.”

The organizations, however, disagree concerning the eligibility of 22 veterans for free agency in 2023. Four of these players – Lu Barnes, Christine Sinclair, Jasmyne Spencer, and McCall Zerboni – have played every season of the NWSL’s existence.

The PA cited Section 13.5 of the CBA to state its case: “Commencing with the 2023 League Season, Free Agency is available for any Player whose SPA is expiring and who has at least six (6) NWSL Service Years.”

The association has contended that the contracts of these 22 Players are expiring on Dec. 31, 2022.

Immediately upon learning of NWSL’s position, the PA filed a grievance to enforce these players’ rights to free agency. The parties agreed to proceed to arbitration. The availability of a grievance and arbitration procedure is itself a result of collective bargaining and will ensure that players’ free agency rights are properly and lawfully implemented.

“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,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement. “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.”

Not surprisingly, the players were not taking the latest scenario lightly.

“As a player who has played in the NWSL for 10 years, free agency is a massive step forward for the league and the players,” Canadian international and Portland Thorns striker Sinclair said in a statement. “Free agency is the standard in every other soccer league around the world, and it will help attract top talent. NWSL should embrace that.”

Added Long Island native Spencer: “As someone who’s been in this league since day one, it is extremely disappointing that the league is trying to obstruct our right to free agency. Free agency was one of the most important issues that we fought for when negotiating the CBA. Players should have free autonomy over their own careers.”

Zerboni, a Gotham FC midfielder,  was even more emphatic.

“I have poured my body, sweat, tears and years into the NWSL for its survival and growth,” she said in a sstatement. “It means so much to me to create and maintain a stable and thriving league for everyone, especially for future generations to come. After 10 years of service, I want nothing in return except to just finally be free and have autonomy over my own rights as a woman.”

The list of active NWSL players who are eligible for free agency are listed below. The number of NWSL service years that will be credited to these Players at the end of this season is included in parentheses. Players whose eligibility is in dispute are listed below with an asterisk. The Players Association’s list contains 47 active NWSL players who are eligible for free agency next season, 22 of whom have been denied free agency rights by the NWSL.


NWSL Players Association: List of 2023 Free Agents

  • Lauren Barnes* (10)
  • Nicole Barnhart (10)
  • Katie Bowen* (7)
  • Amber Brooks (9)
  • Allysha Chapman (8)
  • Danielle Colaprico* (8)
  • Jaelene Daniels* (7)
  • Debinha* (6)
  • Vanessa DiBernardo* (9)
  • Makenzy Doniak* (7)
  • Megan Dougherty Howard (6)
  • Elizabeth Eddy (8)
  • Kristen Edmonds (9)
  • Cali Farquharson (7)
  • Mandy Freeman (6)
  • Morgan Gautrat* (8)
  • Tobin Heath* (8)
  • Rachel Hill* (6)
  • Tori Huster (10)
  • Kaitlyn Johnson* (6)
  • Estelle Johnson* (9)
  • Cheyna Matthews (6)
  • Yuki Nagasato (6)
  • Kelley O’Hara (10)
  • Ifeoma Onumonu (6)
  • Toni Pressley (10)
  • Megan Rapinoe (10)
  • Brittany Ratcliffe (7)
  • Domi Richardson* (9)
  • Katelyn Rowland* (8)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (10)
  • Sophie Schmidt* (6)
  • Desiree Scott (8)
  • Christine Sinclair* (10)
  • Abby Smith (7)
  • Taylor Smith (7)
  • Havana Solaun (7)
  • Meredith Speck* (7)
  • Jasmyne Spencer* (10)
  • Nicole Stanton* (9)
  • Jodie Taylor* (7)
  • Erika Tymrak (9)
  • Michele Vasconcelos (6)
  • Marta Viera da Silva (6)
  • Kealia Watt (9)
  • Arin Wright* (8)
  • McCall Zerboni* (10)