Editors Note: Updated in August 2023 to include most recent salary and annual income estimates for Sam Kerr.
The NWSL tried to change its rules to help keep top foreign talent in the league, but it clearly wasn’t enough. One of the best players in the world left the NWSL in 2020 for England; one look at Sam Kerr's salary and her contract with Chelsea shows why.
Kerr, an international superstar with the Australian national team, formerly the Chicago Red Stars and Perth Glory, signed with Chelsea in what has been reported to make her one of the highest-paid women’s soccer players in the world, a deal that would be impossible in the NWSL.
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) November 13, 2019
Kerr, 26, joined Chelsea in 2020 for the second half of the English Women’s Soccer League after taking a break following the NWSL season.
“The WSL is the best league in Europe,” Kerr said on the Chelsea website at the time. “I want team success and I don’t want it to come easy. I feel Chelsea have been building something special over the years and I want to be a part of that — I want to lift some trophies.”
Kerr left the U.S. and Australia in 2020 as the all-time leading scorer in both the NWSL (69) and W-League (70) to go along with 38 goals for the Matildas. Kerr wears the No. 20 for Chelsea, with Jonna Anderson, the former owner of the No. 20 jersey, moving to No. 25.
— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) November 13, 2019
New chapter begins in BLUE, lets go! pic.twitter.com/8ljGrBKKP4— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) November 13, 2019
Signing Kerr, arguably the most dominant pure goal scorer in the game, was a huge coup for Chelsea.
It was also a massive blow for the NWSL and the W-League in Australia. (Kerr played in both leagues to increase her income.)
In 2019, the NWSL revamped its compensation guidelines to allow players to be paid more. The maximum salary was increased from $46,200 to $50,000, but more importantly clubs were given the option of obtaining allocation money to spend up to $300,000 more beyond the salary cap to either buy players or spend more on salaries. This meant the Chicago Red Stars could have paid Kerr as much as $350,000, a significant increase from $46K.
Chelsea, like many women’s clubs in Europe, is backed by its men’s team’s financial clout and has no salary cap, as NWSL clubs have. According to reports, Sam Kerr's salary and Chelsea contract exceed what any NWSL club could have paid her. While unconfirmed, the two-and-a-half-year deal is reportedly worth $410,000 per season, totaling well over a million dollars. Obviously, the money had more to do with Kerr signing for Chelsea than the chance to play at the same club as Christian Pulisic.
(Note: The Australian sources reporting these numbers have said she’ll make $600,000 per season, which has been echoed by some American outlets despite the fact the number is in Australian dollars, which we converted because we’re not morons.)
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For those who haven’t been reading and are just looking for the Sam Kerr Chelsea contract numbers, here’s a large type, bold explanation so you can just skip to here.
Sam Kerr's Salary and Chelsea Contract
- Years: 2.5
- Salary: $410,000 per season*
- Total Annual Income: $2.14M per year* (including endorsement deals with Nike, Mastercard, and others)
* — According to reports.