NWSL Inks Partnership Aimed At Closing Equal Pay Gap

    • The deal will make UKG the title sponsor for the 2023 Challenge Cup — but will begin benefiting players’ pocketbooks this year.
    • Player bonuses will go up 10x this year.

HR company UKG has signed a deal with the NWSL that will directly increase player compensation, the two companies announced on Friday.

The league is calling the multiyear partnership, brokered by Elevate Sports Ventures, “the first-ever women’s professional soccer tournament to achieve pay equity with its U.S. peers in the men’s game” — in this case, the MLS Cup.

UKG will become the title sponsor for the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup — but the deal will begin benefiting players’ pocketbooks this year. 

For the 2022 Challenge Cup, which will crown a champion on Saturday, player bonuses will pay out $10,000 for the winners, $5,000 for the runners-up, and $1,500 for the semifinalists, a source close to the deal told Front Office Sports. That’s more than 10 times as high as last year. 

And in 2023, the entire pool will almost double again, reaching $1 million, the source said.

The brand has also inked deals with Christen Press and Sydney Leroux.

“We have fought long and hard for pay equal to that of our male counterparts, and we need more people to take a stand on closing the pay gap and fighting for fair and consistent pay for everyone,” Press said in a statement.

The news builds on positive momentum for women’s professional soccer after a major sexual assault scandal revealed last year caused a reckoning in the NWSL.

In February, USWNT players agreed to a preliminary settlement in their equal pay lawsuit. 

Last week, the league’s new commissioner, Jessica Berman, and NWSLPA executive director Meghann Burke ratified the first-ever NWSL collective bargaining agreement. They inked it during the pregame of the inaugural match of the league’s newest expansion team, Angel City FC. 

The match was played in front of 22,000 fans — a league record, Berman said at the ESPNW Summit on Wednesday, adding, “What else do we need to do to prove that women’s sports has business value?”