Why making a living as women’s pro soccer player is no easy task, especially in high-priced Seattle

This year, the minimum salary in the NWSL is up to $15,000, but far below the league minimum of $53,000 in MLS. As a result, having to find viable ways to stay in women’s professional soccer is the norm for players who aren’t on the U.S. or Canadian national teams.

When Keelin Pattillo played her first season with the Seattle Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2013, she lived by herself in an apartment on the Eastside. Pattillo coached some on the side but, thanks to her contract with the U.S. national team, she didn’t work because she needed the money. She just enjoyed coaching.

But prior to Pattillo’s second season with the Reign, she lost her national-team contract, meaning a lot was about to change, she said. Pattillo began living with two teammates in Lake City. She continued coaching, but now she needed that extra money.

At the time, the minimum salary in the NWSL was $6,600 and the maximum was $31,500 for players who weren’t on the U.S., Canadian or Mexican national teams. Those federations paid for the league salaries of national-team players.

“Suddenly I realized that I needed another income to be stable,” said Pattillo, who played as Keelin Winters.

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After the 2016 season, Pattillo, who had been a captain for the Reign for four years and said she made around $30,000, chose to retire from the sport, partially because she wanted more stability in her life. She was thinking about getting married, starting a family and buying a house. The job she had as a professional soccer player wasn’t enough to afford that.

This year, the minimum salary in the NWSL is up to $15,000, more than double that of last year but far below the league minimum of $53,000 in MLS. As a result, having to find viable ways to stay in women’s professional soccer is the norm for players who aren’t on the U.S. or Canadian national teams. (For the first three seasons, Mexico’s soccer federation also allocated players but has not done so the last two years.)

“At this point, I think in women’s professional soccer, you have more than one job,” said Reign midfielder Christine Nairn, who also coaches.

Through a Reign spokesperson, head coach and general manager Laura Harvey declined to comment for this story, and owners Bill and Teresa Predmore were not available for comment. A spokesman for the NWSL also declined to comment.

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