XI from ’12: [No. 5] NWSL is born

Meg Linehan December 29, 2012 14

If No. 6 on our list of Top XI moments in 2012 was a bit of a downer concerning the start of the year, No. 5 ends with 2012 on a hopeful note for a fresh start for women’s professional soccer in North America.

Fans didn’t have to wait too long after the permanent suspension of the WPS in May for the promise of a new professional league.  Following a meeting in June that involved U.S. Soccer and potential owners, a new league was in the works for 2013.

The official announcement (arguably timed somewhat awkwardly) came the night before the gold medal match between the U.S. and Japan in the London Olympics.  Still, the promise of things to come had many fans hopeful that the mistakes made in previous incarnations would not be repeated.

The next major round of details wouldn’t come until the day before Thanksgiving.  In a conference call, U.S. Soccer revealed that it would fully back the new league, with support from the Canadian and Mexican federations as well.  U.S. Soccer has promised to fund up to 24 players, with Canada funding up to 16 and Mexico funding a minimum of 12 players.  The staff of The Equalizer held a roundtable addressing first impressions, markets, and the next steps we wanted to see the league take. One thing’s for certain: the backing of the federations will be key in the long-term viability of women’s professional soccer and the sustainability of the league itself.

The league itself wouldn’t be named until the halftime of the final match of the US Women’s National Team victory tour.  The National Women’s Soccer League will kick-off in the spring of 2013 with eight teams: Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Kansas City FC, Sky Blue FC of New Jersey, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Washington Spirit, and Western New York Flash.

While player reaction from the U.S. women’s national team has been mostly muted, the Canadian Women’s National Team is ready to leap into action.  Emily Zurrer summed up the hopes of many of her teammates when she said, “Hopefully in the future there will be Canadian teams that will be able to enter the league. I think we’re all really excited to play in North America.”

Another exciting aspect to the NWSL: more women behind the scenes.  With Cheryl Bailey named as the league’s executive director in November, and recent announcements from Seattle and Portland hiring Laura Harvey and Cindy Parlow Cone as head coaches, respectively (joining the Boston Breakers’ Lisa Cole), the NWSL is already ahead of the game in including women in organizational roles.

The first order of business in 2013: national team player allocation, with details on how that process might look trickling in.  Also on the docket is the NWSL College Draft to be held at the NSCAA convention in Indianapolis on Jan. 18.  The draft will last four rounds, with a total of 32 eligible players being selected.  With teams taking shape over the next few weeks and kick-off only a matter of months away, 2012 ends with the promise of the return of women’s professional soccer.

Over the final few days of 2012, the staff at The Equalizer will countdown our 11 most memorable moments of 2012. Some were spectacular and some were disappointing, but one thing is common amongst all of them: they will be remembered for years to come.

No. 11: U.S. U-20 women win World Cup
No. 10: North Carolina wins its 21st NCAA title
No. 9: Lyon wins second-straight Champions League title
No. 8: Rapinoe comes out

No. 7: Pia Sundhage’s USWNT era ends

No. 6: WPS folds; W-League and WPSL Elite try to fill the gap

  • Kernel Thai

    The story should have been USSoccer is pregnant, delivery expected in April. At least theyve come up with a name for the baby.

  • Steglitz49

    The organisers must crack a few nuts for this NWSL is to succeed. Those include that the NWSL must get into the media, get a major sponsor and a north-American knock-out cup should be added asap. Media attention may be the most critical.

    Seeing that Budweiser sponsors the FA Cup, it should not be beyond the organisers to get some north-American label to sponsor thoroughly the NWSL. (A foreign brand would also do, of course.)

    FIFA has done all it can do and more than could have been expected. That there are no wealthy men’s teams like Arsenal, Lyon or PSG to pump money into a women’s organisation is nothing knew. To expect established players to turn down lucrative foreign contracts seems shortsighted and egocentric.

    In the final analysis, only people in USA (with Canada and Mexico) can make the NWSL solvent, and the person who cracks this marketing nut will go into the marketers’ hall-of-fame next to Absolut Vodka and Zantac.

    • randomhookup

      There is no likelihood at all that a “knockout cup” will have any influence on the perception of the NWSL over the next few years. The US does not have a tradition of such competitions and the focus will be on the regular season, not outside competitions.

      • Steglitz49

        The simplest design of a USASACC would be either 1 team per state + 14 wild-cards or 2 teams per state and 28 wild-cards. In reality, like in the FA cup, the first couple of rounds would need to be prliminary and the seeded teams would enter later.

        Just because America traditionally have series play followed by play-offs, it does not mean that new ground should not be broken. We know that the standard American way failed twice to create a viable professional soccer system for women in USA. Time for a change and try something NIH.

        A cup is standard in most if not all countries that play soccer. Indeed, some countries, such as the FAs of the British isles, used to give one of its two slots in the ladies CL to the winner of their cup but UEFA forced them to toe the line. (UEFA has been criticised for not having a Cup-winners’ Cup for the ladies.) There was always a discussion, at least in England, about whether winning the Cup or the League was most significant because doing the double was really quite rare before there was so much money in the game.

        Soccer differs from grid-iron, basket, baseball and (ice)hockey in that football was not developed in and is not controlled from USA. Instead, it is the world’s game. Some argue that it was the FA cup – the men’s is 140 years (the ladies’ 41) old this year – that made soccer the people’s game. Some finals are justly famous, not least the Wembley White Horse of 1923. (OK, cricket also is a game not controlled by the USA but that would be to go off on a tangent, even by my liberal standards.)

        Roll on, the NWFA Cup!

        • randomhookup

          I don’t disagree that a cup would be a good competition, but it won’t have ANY impact on the league’s success. The US Open Cup for men has been around since 1914 and it has had very little effect on MLS other than a few games for the reserves until the teams decide to get serious.

          Right now, it would only be a cost for NWSL and some playing time for the bench players. When you are trying to control costs in your initial years, it makes no sense to go looking for playing opportunities that don’t add to the bottom line. Introducing something new & different isn’t a bad thing, but you have to know your market. Most other clubs in the tournament wouldn’t bring crowds and they already have their own competitions/leagues to worry about.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken but I still persist in my heresy that with two abject failures it is high time to try something not invented here.

            Verily, the market has to be segmented, defined and expanded. Interest has to be generated. A challenge cup does that.

            NWSL have to confess whether it is simply a giant training camp for women soccer players of three countries with a combined population of 450 m people, about half of which are women, or a serious effort to create a north-American women’s football association.

            If the NWSL is a soccer finishing school for NCAA-graduates who are not pursuing a career in law or teaching or are unemployed, then it might provide competent players for World Cups and Olympics (until FIFA restricts eligibility) but it is unlikely to satisfy stars like Morgan or Leroux who want to play serious soccer. The top players will prefer foreign coinage and fight for real trophies.

            Soccer is a simple and cheap game that belongs to the people, not the Pacific north-west and the Boston brahmins and latte-swilling Tristaters, not forgetting the cattle-pens of KC and Chicago.

          • Steglitz49

            It occurred to me that it may be worth noting that (as far as I am aware) the world over women’s soccer is an artificial activity in that it is subsidized. It is continually in the red.

            Some subsidizers are wealthy private individuals or people who own their own companies and plow money in. Others are men’s clubs either out of generosity of their hearts but sometimes owing to political pressure. UEFA and the various countries’ FAs chip in, though UEFA spend only 1% of its resources on the ladies.

            Another big source of subsidy are local governments who regularly regulate financial shortfalls for teams. How generous! you might exclaim, but the real reasons is that the debts of various men’s sports are very much more formidable. When a ladies’ soccer team might owe $200k or, maybe $300k, at the end of a season, there are men’s sports-clubs who owe $25m and even $40m, allegedly. Likewise, when a local government might sponsor a girls’ side with $15k in a year it is alleged that $200k has gone to a men’s side.

            This is the nucleus of the soccer atom that NWSL must split because Americans hate subsidies. In my naïvety I thought a truly national challenge cup might help bring the game to the people so that the people would come to the game.

          • randomhookup

            Besides the 8 pro teams and the WPSL/W-League which primarily have college players, the bulk of teams are supported by mom & dad. Any additional games would have to be paid for by fees or another car wash fundraiser. There aren’t any real “FCs” behind them to pay for the activity, only a nonprofit that hopefully pays the coaches enough to live on. The best teams are already traveling to national age-group competitions and the Amateur Cup.

            The pro league estimates it costs about $20k to travel overnight to a game. That really adds up if you have to go to 4-5 additional games with no cash at the end to pay for your efforts.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you for keeping me right and setting out the reality so clearly. Maybe Jeff can take you into his writing stable? Perhaps you already are writing for him?

            Those who watch women´s soccer have been spoilt by the speed and quality of not only the top national sides but also club teams. Remember the second half of Japan-France at the Olympics? The most outstanding soccer of the year.

            Today to practical purposes all the remaining teams in the ladies* CL are professionals, though the differences in earnings are enormous.

            It has variously been stated that Lyon has an annual salary budget of either 3m€ or 3.5m€. A few years ago, when they acquired Lotta Schelin, Lyon allegedly paid her club Göteborg 160k€ (ie $200k). It is said that Ohno will get $115k a year from Lyon but Japanese boosters will add a bit of a subsidy in Japan. The annual salary budgets of Frankfurt and Potsdam are less but claimed to be about 1.7m€. It is not known what PSG are spending but Horan, Asllani, Krahn, Bresonik and Boulleau can’t be cheap. The chairman of Wolfsburg is the CEO of VW.

            We buy lottery tickets at each home game of our club — but it feels like we are mosquitoes spitting in the Mississippi. Maybe the Reign logo will cut some ice — or latte?

          • randomhookup

            Thanks for the kind words. I would hope any of the Equalizer writers (of whom I am not one) who comment here would identify themselves. I’m still a novice to the world’s game (at least at the highest levels), but I’ve learned a lot about how the US structure differs from the rest of the world and the business end of the women’s game.

          • Steglitz49

            Accepted. Soccer is easy. According to
            – Gary Lineker it is “a game where 22 people kick a ball about for 90 minutes and then the Germans win on penalties” — OK, make that Japan for the USA.
            – Bill Shankly “football is not a matter of life or death; it is more important than that.”
            – “You never walk alone” is the song of Liverpool (I daresay Liverpool Ladies sing it also) — the words are inscribed on the Shankly gates.
            – if all else fails you can always say “The ball is round” which apparently was a favourite expression of Sepp Herberger’s.
            – read up about the Grenoli.

            Finally, here is your starter question for ten points: Why is it AC Milan but Inter Milano? (Hint: Genoa vs Sampdoria might help you)

  • Joshua

    Not that I want to sound negative, but this new league has “development league” written all over it.

    Check out the logo for the NBA Development League at their official site and compare it to the logo of the NWSL. They are almost identical! Same color scheme, just reversed sides, with a player in the middle in white. Red White and Blue. No points for originality…

    The WPS logo at least had an original color scheme and Mia Hamm in silhouette. I liked it.

    A development league is better than no league at all. Still need to wonder how the financing of this new league will go. Not like they have the NBA as the financial underwriter. More like the ABA that will start out a season with 75 teams and close with 25 if they are lucky.

    • Joshua

      More regarding to the NWSL logo:

      Same color scheme and similar design as the NBA and WNBA logos (as well as NBA D league) with a player in white silhouette between blue and red backgrounds.

      What’s the NBA and WNBA going to think? Or do they care?

      • Steglitz49

        Why would they care? Imitation is a form of flattery. Also, as it would appear that NWSL cannot offer the same salaries and benefits as the WNBA, I doubt if they will lose much sleep over it.

        Given that Mexico is defraying part of this NWSL caper, some green in the logo would not have come amiss. When all is said and done, the game is played on grass.