The National Women’s Soccer League has come under fire in recent years over how much — or how little — it is paying most of its players and staff. Now one of the league’s biggest stars is criticizing its hotel accommodations.
Portland Thorns star forward Alex Morgan on Monday used Twitter to express her displeasure with the league’s “continuing problems” with road hotels for teams, specifically calling out a recent trip to Kansas City that she said included bedbugs and mold.
Morgan included the NWSL’s Twitter account in the since-deleted post, adding, “there’s no other way to address continuing problems. Hotels have been unacceptable. For ex. :Bed bugs/mold @ Adams Mark Hotel in KC.”
She didn’t specify when the hotel stay was, but the Thorns played FC Kansas City on Aug. 12, losing 3-0.
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Multiple messages seeking comment from the Adams Mark Hotel & Conference Center were not returned.
But NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush, in a statement, said the hotel fixed the bedbug issue.
“During a recent road trip, a Portland Thorns FC player reported finding bedbugs in her hotel room at the team hotel in Kansas City. The hotel apologized, quickly provided a new room, and insisted the problem had been corrected,” Plush’s statement said.
“Upon learning of the situation, the League immediately spoke with both clubs, and FC Kansas City had already addressed the issue. For the remainder of the season, rooms have already been secured at another hotel. Player safety and comfort is important to all teams of the NWSL, and we are always seeking ways to improve our club and League operations. We regret this situation and apologize to the player involved.”
On Wednesday, the Kansas City Health Department found evidence of bedbugs at Adams Mark and a city health manager said his staff is working with the hotel to make sure the violations get rectified.
League rules require home teams to provide 12 rooms for visiting squads at a hotel of at least three stars or better. The Adams Mark Hotel & Conference Center is listed as a three-star establishment.
Morgan wasn’t the only one to call out a poor hotel stay in Kansas City. Fellow teammate Christine Sinclair, on Twitter, also mentioned a bedbug problem.
If hotel accommodations have been a continuing problem in the way Morgan described, money could be an issue. The league, which is subsidized by the U.S. Soccer Federation, Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican Football Federation, operates with an annual salary cap reportedly at $265,000 per team. In comparison, Major League Soccer operates with an annual salary cap of $3.49 million, which is expected to reach $4.2 million by 2019. Of course, the $265,000 cap doesn’t include players who fall into allocation, but it does show the financial constraints in getting a women’s professional soccer league off the ground on the third try.
Nearly every team in NWSL operates in the red, Portland being the lone exception. The minimum salary in the NWSL this season is $6,842, while the maximum salary is up to $37,800. To make ends meet, some players live with each other. Some live with host families. Others, such as those featured in this NBC Sports story, simply call it quits and find jobs outside of women’s soccer.
For now, NWSL is moving forward with the support of the three federations. This summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup has helped boost attendance, at least for the short term, and U.S. Soccer has repeatedly said it will support the league financially until it is able to sustain itself.
But what might interest some is that this very same issue — hotel quality — was rampant in Major League Soccer not so long ago. A result of David Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles in 2007, MLS teams were offered two “exceptions” per season to use on higher-end hotels. In his book, “The Beckham Experiment,” Grant Wahl noted the quality of league-mandated hotels as it pertained to the LA Galaxy and Beckham:
“Instead of staying in the usual MLS-mandated (read: mediocre) hotel, the Galaxy was using one of its two exceptions for the season to lodge at the fancy Le Meridien King Edward downtown. What’s more, the hotel stay was free, the result of a deal the Galaxy had reached with a Toronto promoter.”
By 2007, the MLS salary cap was just north of $2 million, but the league was still vying for attention outside of the soccer world and even at times within it in the same way NWSL is today, while also tackling concerns such as hotel quality and appropriate spending.
At the very least, these issues are worth keeping an eye on as the league wraps up in September and pushes toward a fourth season.