Those tied to the new deal will have to ensure availability at all times of the year, which could explain why Kelly Smith, Alex Scott, Eni Aluko, Anita Asante and Karen Carney, who now play in the United States, are not in the 17.
"This is a vital step," said FA chairman Lord Triesman.
"It ensures that our head coach will have outstanding players available to her in the future, footballers who are great role models in women's football."
Head coach Hope Powell added: "We are delighted to be able to finally announce that 17 players have so far accepted central contracts.
"We have worked very hard with the FA board and the Professional Footballers' Association on these contracts over a long period of time to ensure they are right for the players.
"This is a great opportunity for those players who have been successful.
"These contracts will help them to focus on training and playing and, just as importantly, on getting the adequate rest time in between without having the pressures of working a 35-hour week.
"We hope this will allow our girls time to concentrate on helping England qualify for major tournaments on a consistent basis and competing at the very top level against the best teams in the world."
FA central contracts players: Rachel Brown (Everton), Siobhan Chamberlain (Chelsea), Carly Telford (Leeds Carnegie), Casey Stoney (Chelsea), Faye White (Arsenal), Rachel Unitt (Everton), Stephanie Houghton (Leeds Carnegie), Emily Westwood (Everton), Katie Chapman (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Everton), Laura Bassett (Arsenal), Rachel Williams (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Rachel Yankey (Arsenal), Sue Smith (Leeds Carnegie), Jody Handley (Everton), Lindsay Johnson (Everton), Corrine Yorston (Bristol Academy).
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