With one week to go before the USWNT begins CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, their players association has hit a snag in negotiations with USSF over a new collective bargaining agreement. Andrew Das of the New York Times broke the story, writing that "U.S. Soccer is seeking to have a court rule that the terms of the agreement...remains valid."
USSF and the WNT have been operating under a memorandum of understanding for several years now, ever since the old CBA expired in 2012. The memorandum would have the league and the team operate under the terms of the old CBA until the end of 2016, at which time a new CBA would come into effect.
Now the players association, under the guidance of Executive Director Richard Nichols, is contending that US Soccer currently has no valid CBA in place, which would allow them to engage in labor actions such as strikes. US Soccer contends in a statement released to the press that a valid CBA currently exists, and is asking a federal court to say as much, which would preclude the team from striking.
Nichols gave US Soccer 60 days to put a new agreement in place, with a deadline of February 24, which is three days after the end of Olympic qualifying. Presumably labor actions would affect the four-game SheBelieves tour in March, and possibly the Rio Olympics, as well as keeping subsidized national team players from their NWSL teams.
The team had previously already boycotted a game during their Victory Tour, refusing to play in Honolulu over what they described as unsafe field conditions.
In an interview with The Guardian last week, Nichols contended that the WNT has "had to endure second-class citizenship under the offices of US Soccer for many years." That includes the quality of playing surfaces in venues chosen for the national team, which USSF seems to have attempted to correct for in 2016 by scheduling all games so far in stadiums with grass fields.
Should the court rule in favor of the players association, then the team will be able to engage in labor actions such as strikes while they negotiate a new CBA. If not, then everything will likely be status quo under the old memorandum until it expires as scheduled.