With OL Reign’s recent high-profile signings of Tobin Heath and Jordyn Huitema, along with a short-term loan of Kim Little from Arsenal, there has once again been speculation from fans of other teams that Reign must somehow be cheating the system to suit everyone. on its list, perhaps thanks to some hidden financial support from its parent organization OL Groupe. But these allegations belie how clever the club have been with trades and transfers over the past year, amassing a substantial war chest which they have been able to use to great effect during the summer transfer window.
Before we get into the details of previous moves they’ve made, we first need to take a brief look at the current NWSL salary cap structure and how it changed with the signing of the league’s first collective bargaining agreement earlier in the year. For starters, teams now have a base salary cap of $1.1 million to work with. That’s significantly higher than the 2021 cap of $650k, although USWNT players are no longer assigned and are now directly signed by their clubs. For Reign, that means Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle are now under contract with the club and likely have significant salary-cap salaries for the first time (Alana Cook and Sofia Huerta already signed directly with Reign before this season). ) Beyond those two, there was a pretty substantial increase in salaries across the board, so most (if not all) of that extra $450,000 in cap space was probably accounted for from the beginning of the year.
However, clubs have access to additional resources in the form of allocation money, which they can use to cover player salaries above the $75,000 maximum salary and buy cap hits, offer in trades and pay transfer fees. It is important to note that all transfer fees must be paid exclusively with allocation money; external funds cannot be used. Each NWSL team has the ability to purchase $500,000 in allocation money this season, and any unused money purchased or acquired in trades in previous seasons can be carried over to the current year. This is where OL Reign has particularly shone: in addition to their own haul, they have made a number of trades that have greatly increased their treasury. Here are the moves the club have made since the end of last season that have added to their money allocation:
That’s $245k in additional allocation money, plus another $15k next year. However, the club also spent some of that money on trades and transfers ahead of the season:
- They traded $40k and a 2023 first-round pick to Gotham FC in exchange for the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft, which was used to select Zsani Kajan (Reign also got some of that money back when they traded Kajan to ACF Fiorentina on Monday). for an undisclosed fee).
- They traded $30k and a 2023 third-round pick to Houston for Veronica Latsko.
So, in total, the club netted at least $175k in allowance money before making their big moves this summer. For the right to sign Heath, they sent Louisville $50,000 along with a couple of 2023 draft picks. We don’t have details on the transfer fee the Reign paid to PSG for Huitema, but we may get some clues thanks to Heath’s transfer. Alana Cook’s last year from PSG to the Reign. Cook’s transfer was in the top 5 fees paid globally in 2021, likely in the $200-250k range. However, Cook had two years left on his contract with PSG at the time of his transfer last summer, while Huitema only had one year left, so his fee was probably lower. Perhaps most importantly, the cap hits from both Heath and Huitema will be prorated for the rest of this season.
But what about Little, you may be wondering. Although he is likely to earn substantial salaries at Arsenal, he will only be with OL Reign for about six weeks, so the team will be responsible for roughly 12% of his total salary. If, hypothetically, he’s making £250,000, the impact on Reign’s salary cap would be about $35,000, which coincidentally is the same as this year’s NWSL minimum salary.
Even if this isn’t enough to convince you, one last thing should: All transactions and contracts must be approved by the NWSL office to ensure standards are met. When the allocation money was unveiled in November 2019, the expectation was that teams would find creative ways to use it to bolster their rosters. The covid pandemic delayed many of those plans by a year, but it also allowed teams to rack up additional funding ahead of the 2021 season. OL Reign was also able to make some smart moves in late 2020, including loaning out some key players, which which provided the opportunity to add three OL players on loan during the middle of the 2021 season, and they again made a series of seemingly minor moves this preseason that has allowed them to make big signings this summer.
“How does OL Reign get away with it?” The answer really is that they are doing what any team hungry to win the NWSL Championship should be doing: establishing a culture that makes them a desirable destination and using the resources available to them to acquire players they believe can elevate the roster in the present. and in the years to come. These are the pillars of any competent organization that has ambitions and recognizes that it can always do better.