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XI from ’12: [No. 5] NWSL is born

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

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