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Sermanni understands league, national team synergy

Tom Sermanni's experience managing a national team with a growing domestic league will help the U.S. women. (Photo: U.S. Soccer)

Tuesday’s announcement that Tom Sermanni is the new U.S. women’s national team head coach answered one of the two major questions hanging over the collective head of U.S. women’s soccer. Now all attention turns to announcing a new professional league.

Details of that are reportedly close to being finalized. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said on Wednesday that there should be news on that in 1-2 weeks.

One of those questions within the big question of the league’s existence is whether or not the U.S. national team players will participate in the league. The word I am hearing is that signs point to ‘yes,’ in general, though the decisions will be made individually.

Players were provided details on the new league in a meeting following last week’s 2-2 draw with Germany in East Hartford, Conn.

Perhaps more critical to the league is how it will be utilized to develop and discover new talent for the national team. Who is the next Amy LePeilbet or Lori Lindsey? Both finally got their shot with the U.S. after standout play in WPS. Without a league, they may never have suited up for the United States.

That is where Sermanni could be a very big asset to U.S. Soccer. No, he isn’t Paul Riley, Jim Gabarra or another ex-WPS coach who has direct experience with the most recent U.S. pro league. Sermanni, however, was a part of WUSA (2001-03) during all three seasons.

More importantly, he already proved that growing a domestic league and a national team helps each entity grow. As the Westfield W-League developed, so too did Australia’s women’s national team.

Sermanni was instrumental in the success of both and recognized the national team’s need for a league.

We set up the W-League for a variety of reasons and I think those reasons are probably important in any country,” Sermanni said. “One is to have a domestic profile for the sport and for the players. The other is to give opportunities to the players to be seen and play against national team players, to see how good they are and see if they’ve got the potential to be a national team player. The third reason is to develop players and particularly to develop younger players and get them into a professional environment. And the fourth reason was to have an actual, real meaningful professional women’s competition where whether the players are aspiring national team players or not, they do want to play soccer at a serious level.

“It’s succeeded beyond my expectations. We have, over five years, managed to almost redevelop our national team through being able to see players in the W-League and through being able to give them that opportunity in a serious domestic competition for four or five months a year.”

Those are encouraging words for fans, journalists and coaches hoping to see a league be a true asset to the U.S. women’s national team. Sermanni’s direct experience with managing a national team and being something of a watchdog over the development of a domestic league (Australia’s W-League is only semi-professional) will serve as a direct benefit to both the U.S. national team and this reincarnated professional league.

“I think every league differs slightly, but I think some of the key principles would exist,” Sermanni said of a potential U.S. league’s impact on the national team. “What’s important for any national team is to have as much competition as possible for spots in the team and I think the domestic league would create an environment where there is greater competition and greater opportunities for players to get into the national team.”

The stars of the world champion U-20 women and the best 20-something Americans like Camille Levin, Christen Press and Ingrid Wells need more than a couple of training camps to impress Sermanni.

But so do those slightly older players who are currently training alone as they coach a college team in some corner of the country, sitting around waiting for a league to redevelop so they can prove their worth. That is what a league can provide. That is where Sermanni can capitalize on his experience and help the U.S. women’s program grow.

[MORE: NSCAA interview with Sermanni about player development from December 2011]


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