Rules and restrictions define NWSL “Free Agency”

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“Free agency” is a generous description of what the National Women’s Soccer Leagues has undertaken. Starting Friday, teams were free to sign players not already allocated or drafted onto the league’s eight teams. But there’s a cap on how many players each team can sign, and those players would aren’t inked in the open market will go into a supplemental draft. There’s also assumed to be a cap on how much each “free” agent’ can make.

Regardless, the process opened up yesterday and will last until Jan. 31. Western New York, who received one fewer player in allocation, will be allowed to sign five free agents while each other team’s limited to four. The rest of the 20-woman rosters will be filled by a supplemental draft composed of players not already on NWSL rosters.

“When you are starting a league, you have to be creative and resourceful in determining the best way to stock the rosters and after discussions with all the clubs we think we’ve come up with a process that is equitable and logical,” NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey said in a Friday statement. “The first part of this process will be this signing period for teams to add four, or in the case of Western New York five, additional players to the allocated players and the players taken in the college draft.”

Multiple people within the league claim most clubs had already reached verbal agreements with players well before Friday’s all clear. Former North Carolina midfielder Allie Long’s expected to go to Portland. Midfielder Sinead Farrelly will end up in Kansas City. Defensive midfielder Leslie Osborne will move to Chicago, while it’s expected former U.S. National Team defender Cat Whitehill will stay in Boston.

Equalizer Soccer has a list of other prominent free agents, the most intriguing of which may be Casey Loyd (nee Nogueira). The wife of FC Dallas defender Zach Loyd is the most talented player available in free agency and could provide a creative spark to teams who weren’t able to acquire one in allocation or the college draft. The 23-year-old former Tar Heel had been linked to the emerging North Carolina enclave in Portland, but the rumored signing of former UNC teammate Nikki Washington casts doubts on that link. Loyd staying closer to Dallas with FC Kansas City also seems unlikely, with the team said to have identified their four free agents.

With only a paucity of signings leaked over the last two weeks to distract news-hungry fans, focus has been on the “Additional Signing Period” rules; or rather, why there are rules at all. Fans have asked why a league that already has a salary cap seeks to limit individual salaries as well as the number of players clubs can sign in the open period. Restricting that open period to one week also serves to forced decisions and push players onto rosters.

The logic seems to rest in limiting the ability of a few teams to use their draw to stack squads, creating a greater competitive imbalance. At least, that explains the four (or in the case of Western New York, five) player cap.

The individual player wage cap, thought to be around $24,000, is more difficult to explain. The most plausible theory sees the cap as in line with national team players’ salaries, the restriction designed to prevent free agents from taking advantage of a scarcity better players didn’t enjoy. The move also has the obvious advantage of preventing wage escalation.

Regardless, the rules have left hardcore fans asked why the stringent restrictions with so little obvious justification.

As Bailey alludes, at the onset of a new league, there are a number of factors to consider when creating the first squads. For a sport that’s seen two professional leagues fold in the last 10 years, it’s understandable the federation’s taken a conservative approach. But for the hungry if small women’s professional soccer fan base, the unexpected regulations still lack explanation.

Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace

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Wilfried Zaha starts up top for Crystal Palace after passing his late fitness ahead of Crystal Palace’s clash with Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andre Gomes will make his Toffees debut after joining Everton from Barcelona in the summer — a hamstring injury has kept the Portuguese out of action thus far — while Yerry Mina, Everton’s other Barcelona buy, could make his debut from the bench.

LINEUPS

Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Zouma, Keane, Digne; Gueye, Andre Gomes; Walcott, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Richarlison | Subs: Stekelenburg, Bines, Mina, Davies, Tosun, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman

Crystal Palace: Hennessey: Wan-Biassaka, Sakho, Tomkins, Van Aanholt; Milovijevic, McArthurt, Kouyate; Schlupp, Townsend; Zaha | Subs: Guiata, Ayew Wickham, Kaikai, Kelly, Puncheon, Riedewald

Opposition to Wembley sale “bizarre” and led by “old men”

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Greg Dyke sees Shahid Khan’s capsized bid to buy Wembley Stadium as a massive missed opportunity for English soccer, and the former Football Association chairman is quite displeased by the “bizarre” opposition of the “old men” on the FA council.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

With an offer of more than $780 million on the table, Dyke believes that unprecedented — and otherwise impossible — investments could have been made to grassroots soccer that might just create a brighter future for the English game. If only it wasn’t for those meddling kids “the council is living in the past, as it always has done,” as he put it — quotes from the BBC:

“If I’d been chairman, I would have said it is the board’s decision.

“I don’t think the council is equipped to make this decision — that is what the FA board is for.”

Most notably, England is in desperate need of artificial playing fields up and down the country, as well as a tidal wave of newly licensed coaches to begin working at younger and younger age groups.

“The FA has only owned Wembley for 10 to 15 years, before that it was a private business.

“The idea you are going to lose something of value to Britain because it is not owned by the FA is the wrong one compared to spending [$784 million] doing what is desperately needed in this country and that is to spend money on grassroots facilities.

“If you want to have a step change in grassroots facilities in this country, you need this sort of money to be spent.

“It’s bizarre that the old men of the FA Council have stopped this.

“One of the tragedies of English football in recent years is that all the extra money that has come into the Premier League has by and large gone to players or agents, and not to football generally.”

Oftentimes, tradition and history come at the expense of revolution and progression, only to later realize that a golden opportunity has come and gone.

Agent says Usain Bolt has contract offer

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Usain Bolt’s agent claims that his client has received an A-League contract offer from Central Coast Mariners after spending more than two months on trial with the Australian club.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

The eight-time Olympic goal medalist, who’s 32 years old after retiring from track and field last year, scored twice in a Mariners exhibition last week. Now, his agent says he’s been offered an official contract — quotes from the AP:

“In response to the media stories, yes, Usain has been offered a contract. I do not want to make any further comment at this stage.”

Mike Mulvey, the Mariners manager, not only claims to be unaware of any such offer, but sounds rather dubious and unenthusiastic about the prospects of Bolt being a first-team player.

“You have a look at our front line today and you wonder whether he could get into any of those positions, wouldn’t you? I do appreciate how important this story is for the rest of the world.

“You’re just talking about speculation, I don’t know anything about what you’re talking about and that’s the honest truth.”

“We’re going to go back, have some dinner, have a little look at the game that’s on … then get on a plane tomorrow, go home and start preparing for Melbourne City next week. That’s the plan.”

La Liga: Messi breaks his arm; Real Madrid lose again

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona ended its slump and regained the Spanish league lead but there was little to celebrate as Lionel Messi broke his right forearm and will be sidelined for three weeks.

[ WATCH: Messi scores, assists, breaks arm in first 16 minutes ]

Also, Real Madrid lost again while suffering its worst scoring drought.

Messi scored and walked off injured in the first half of Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Sevilla at Camp Nou Stadium, while Real Madrid players and coach Julen Lopetegui were jeered off the field after they lost to Levante 2-1 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Messi was taken to a clinic, and Barcelona said he broke the radial bone. At the least, he will miss the Champions League match against Inter Milan on Wednesday, and El Clasico against Barcelona next Sunday.

“We will notice his absence,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “But we’ve played without him in the past. We will be prepared to overcome this.”

Messi was trying to reclaim the ball when he ran into the back of a defender and fell in the 17th minute. Trying to cushion his fall, his right elbow bent badly and he was in visible pain. Doctors wrapped his arm with bandages and the playmaker tried to continue but gave up.

“We shouldn’t let Messi’s injury affect us,” defender Gerard Pique said. “We have a team good enough to do well in the matches that we have ahead.”

Messi scored their second goal with a shot from outside the area in the 12th, about 10 minutes after Phillipe Coutinho opened the scoring. Luis Suarez added the third by converting a second-half penalty kick.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

Sevilla replied through Pablo Sarabia, Ivan Rakitic increased Barcelona’s lead in the 88th, and Sevilla netted again thanks to Luis Muriel in injury time.

Barcelona struggled more than the scoreline showed, with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen having to make a pair of remarkable double-saves, but the result was enough to give Valverde’s team a one-point lead over surprising Alaves.

Sevilla, which had won four in a row in the league, including 3-0 against Real Madrid, dropped to third place, two points off the lead.


Atletico Madrid, which drew at Villarreal 1-1, also was two back after nine matches.

Real Madrid was four points behind Barcelona, in fifth place.

Real Madrid fans ran out of patience after seeing their team suffer its worst scoring drought and lose for the fourth time in five matches.

Fans loudly jeered after Madrid reached 481 minutes without finding the net in the loss to Levante, which entered the game with the league’s third-worst defense.

Levante scored early with goals by Jose Luis Morales in the sixth minute and Roger in the 13th after a penalty awarded following a video review. Marcelo pulled one back in the 72nd.

Madrid began the match without Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who are coming off injuries. It still created enough chances, striking the woodwork three times and having a goal by Mariano Diaz disallowed for offside in the final minutes. Marco Asensio also had a first-half goal disallowed by VAR.

Madrid finished with 70 percent possession and more than 30 attempts.

Local media immediately questioned whether Madrid should fire Lopetegui before El Clasico next weekend at Barcelona or give him a chance to try to save his job against the rival.

“Football matches are won by scoring goals and not according to who deserves to win,” said Lopetegui, who is only three months into his stint with the club after being fired from Spain’s national team.

Before El Clasico, Madrid hosts Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday in the Champions League to try to rebound from a 1-0 loss at CSKA Moscow.