The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson for January 20, 2020
NWSL Draft edition and I'm confused by allocation money, but what else is new?
Subscribers, thank you for your support! You’ve opted to join us for five different women’s sports newsletters in your inbox every week. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. If you know someone who would love The IX as much as you do, forward this offer along!
NWSL Draft takeaways
Hey guys, before you do anything today, head over to The Athletic and read Meg Linehan’s great story on draft day with Sky Blue. It is here.
Also, today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Please take a moment and reflect on how far we still need to go in this country when it comes to equality and justice. The work is far from done and it’s up to each one of us to advocate for change, both individually and in our communities.
Lots of things happened this week. In addition to the draft day craziness, Vlatko Andonovski announced the roster for his first tournament as head coach of the national team.
I’ll get more into Olympic qualifying in next week’s The IX.
For today, I want to focus on the draft. I could not go, and it felt like I was missing out. But then Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu went off on Stanford, and I was glad I went to Eugene. It’s a really good thing that there’s so much going on in women’s sports.
That said, it felt like the NWSL went full MLS mode with the allocation money flying around. How long is it until there’s TAM and GAM designations? And I’m only sort of kidding.
I have so many questions.
Neil Morris had a good look at the impact of allocation money for the Equalizer. I noted Paul Riley’s concerns: Will the teams with deep-pocketed owners (Hey Reign, I see you) have an advantage? Will it create a haves and have-nots league with teams essentially buying (and selling) draft picks?
John Halloran took a deeper dive today for The Equalizer.
The NWSL is not publicly sharing dollar amounts here, and the actual rules surrounding allocation money seem to be a bit hazy. Unlike MLS, allocation money apparently doesn’t have to be used for player salaries, it can also be part of the team’s general fund. And it accrues. All of that wasn’t clear when the the rules were announced back in November.
I’m gonna admit something here: Nothing gives me a headache quite like stories about salary caps and allocation money and all the other financial mechanisms teams use to build rosters and pay players. I’d much rather read about why Sophia Smith thought going pro had more value than a Stanford degree. I think there’s probably an interesting answer to explore there.
But I do understand the value of these types of discussions, even if I can’t really understand half of what it means. The main thing is transparency here. It kind of feels like the whole issue of allocation money and what it can and can’t be used for hasn’t been fully thought out.
All of which makes Riley’s comments more concerning.
On to the links!
This Week in Women’s Soccer
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! email@example.com.
Hey, so most of the links here are gonna deal with the NWSL and draft. We’ll dive into qualifying next week.
Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philadelphia Enquirer with a good story on Stephanie McCaffrey’s big plans.
Tannenwald also looked at some of the unanswered questions surrounding the league. I’m not sure many of them were answered at the draft.
Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer on college players leaving early for the pros.
Graham Hays’ story on the draft for ESPN. Blessed to have Graham in Oregon for some women’s hoops right now.
Mitchell Northam looked at the allocation issue for ProSoccerUSA.
You guys: United Soccer Coaches announced its annual media awards, with Meg Linehan and Jeff Kassouf earning honors. Congrats.
Kim McCauley’s take on the draft for SB Nation.
The Utah Royals take Tziarra King with the No. 8 pick, from the Salt Lake Tribune.
Interesting story form The Women’s Game on fewer Matildas in the NWSL.
Nice story from the Chicago Sun Times on draft pick Camryn Biegalski.
The Globe and Mail with a brief story on Jessie Fleming’s decision. Apparently she wants to focus on team Canada.
Stephanie Yang on the draft’s winners and losers for All For XI.
The IX favorite Sam Kerr gets her first goal for Chelsea.
Linehan also covered the NWSL owners’ meeting for The Athletic.
Tweet of the week
Five at The IX: Amanda Duffy and Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler take questions during the draft.
Hat tip to The IX colleague Howard Megdal for sharing the audio! Here are some excerpts.
Duffy: We’ve discussed that internally and assessed what information we think is relevant, important, to share with the fans and the media about the allocation money itself, when that is included in the trade, and have determined that we think right now and going forward that sharing that allocation money is used, we’ll allow the necessary information to be relayed to fans and to media without giving too much information, maybe specific to the compensation amount specifically.
Follow-up question about why allocation amounts are not released:
Duffy: We don’t typically announce the compensation of players themselves. So by not including the actual dollar amount of the allocation money, we’re keeping that information unavailable in the public distribution of the information. [00:01:07][15.5]
Question about how much she’s recusing herself given her new job with the Pride?
Duffy: Well, there’s not actually overlap of responsibilities. So I’m with NWSL as the league president through February 15th. On February 16th I’ll then begin responsibilities and duties in connection with Orlando Pride. I feel very comfortable and confident in fulfilling the responsibilities I have now as the legue president for the remainder of my time. And in the event there were circumstance where it would would be necessary for me to recuse myself, I certainly would do that as it’s necessary.
Question: Have there been any such circumstances yet?
Duffy: There have not.
Whisler: No. And we have zero concern about Amanda, her ethics. She’s a pro. She’s all in for women’s soccer. We’ve talked about transition. We’ve talked about areas where there might be a conflict, but there aren’t any. She’s not in any acting capacity for Orlando and there’ll be a clean break, she’ll assist as needed, because she is a pro, through whatever transition period. Her job is with Orlando starting February 16th. Until then, she’s all in on what we’re doing.
Question about U.S. Soccer’s role:
Whisler: U.S. Soccer is an essential partner of doing pro soccer in the U.S., or youth soccer, but for us, pro soccer. There is no doubt that with or without a management agreement we’re going to continue to work very closely together. We have an obligation to build the best players in the world for the U.S. national team. And so the management agreement for us is a bit of a formality that allowed us, because our legal agreement changes and some other things that take some time to get done _ extending it just allows us to not be rushed in the way that we unwind what has been a wonderful eight year relationship. We’re excited and working closely together and no issues that I’m worried about.
Duffy: To build off of that, it allows more time, as the relationship is always going to be an evolution of the relationship between NWSL and the U.S. Soccer, the extension her one year allows more time to ensure that we get that relationship right in the next iteration of it.
Whisler: I was fortunate to be in the room in 2012 when we formed the league and we formed the league with U.S. Soccer because we knew that we weren’t in a place that we could do all the things we wanted to do as a pro league. Yet, as we get closer and closer to being a fully self-sustainable pro league. We’ll pull apart even more for independence, and so there’s no conflict for U.S. soccer. But you know, it’s just a natural evolution as a league stands up and gets to a professional level. We don’t think there’s a necessary long-term subsidy or any sort of financial participation, but we’d be dumb not to coordinate our activities to create the best women’s soccer league going forward. We’ll keep doing that.
Whisler: I want to add one other thing about the allocation money. I think part of the reason, too, for not being fully transparent with the allocation money is it can be used for a lot of reasons. I think there’s some misunderstanding that it can only be used, for instance, for player salaries. There’s no doubt it will often be used for player salaries, but there are also mechanisms that you can use it in other ways to support the operator or the team. It’s not going to be obvious when that money is pulled down for use by a team or other things, you’re not gonna announce those teams, those things either, so if you are counting on a certain transparency that the account is at this, you may not know when it goes to zero. You may not always know because there are ways to use it other than trades. So I think it’s a very complex thing, it’s not something that’s like opening everyone’s accounting system in a certain way. [00:06:01][58.9]
Question about whether more transparency, ala other leagues, has been discussed:
Duffy: It’ll be assessed. And part of that, too, there are collective bargaining agreements that also requires certain information to be publicly shared. We obviously don’t have that right now. And that’s not an arrangement or the type of relationship we have with the Players Association at this time, to share that information. I think we all know at some point in the future a CBA is going to be negotiated, the Players Association is going to continue to grow in its activity and how it’s involved in some of the day-to-day, competition-elated areas that impact them directly and in time I would expect, as part of all of that, the sharing of salary information comes with it. We’re not there yet.
Whisler: I think there are privacy issues, too, right? Not everyone wants their salary exposed. I think that the agents don’t always want known exactly what compensation is. A compensation includes not just salary, now it includes housing and includes auto. There might be other stipends for working in the front office for legitimate market-based pay. Where do you stop? Again, we’ll evolve towards more transparency. There’s not an attempt to be confusing me or hiding things, it’s a hard thing to just sort of say here it all is, there’s a lot of confusing stuff in there, too.
Question to clarify that teams can use the allocation money on other things, like facilty updates?
Whisler: There are restrictions on when you can draw down money and things like that. The other thing, though, is, you know, just in our case where we tried to gather some allocation money today, was that it was a fun new thing, we hadn’t really thought through. But that could be carried over. So what if we wanted to use it all to protect against expansion draft next year? We can carry that over, so that’s why it’s it’s hard to think of it as coming in, must be used for this year’s salary, that’s just not the case. It may, it probably will in many cases, but it may not. It’s all about just increasing the number of things you can do as a team to protect yourself going forward, or increase your value going forward.
Duffy: And assets to encourage transactions in a way that I think people have we wanted to see more player transactions in general and this is one more an asset that can encourage that to happen.
Question about timeline on the partnership with U.S. Soccer.
Whisler: First thing I’d say is, it’s a private discussion, right? So we’re not going to just sort of suggest all the things we talked about, but the intent was to have unwound our relationship, in many ways, not all ways, by the end of last year. We extended it a year, so we don’t have to rush and do stupid things, or or things that we don’t all feel that are fully baked in the way that we want them to be. I think our expectation is that we’ll continue to be a good partner with U.S. Soccer, they’ll continue to be supportive in a bunch of ways. But, as to the management agreement, my expectation is that we’ll move beyond it. I think it’ll be this year. The expectation is that it could be, should be this year. But we’re not going to do anything dumb for what all of us are trying to build together.