Next year’s Women’s World Cup is the elephant in the room for the National Women’s Soccer League, and not just because of the schedule.
Make no mistake, that needs figuring out. By the end of Monday’s owners meeting in Chicago — if not sooner — there should be a decision on how to tackle the one-month tournament that will fall smack in the middle of the NWSL season. (A break from league play is inevitable based on the varying opinions of owners, but the length of the break and the number of games in the season are the sticking point.)
But not to be overlooked is just how much the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup will keep payers from participating in the league. Teams know they could be without United States players for the large majority of the 2015 NWSL season. Mexico was on the fence last summer about continuing its financial support of the league by funding its players, and Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar hasn’t said much since the federation eventually decided to buy back in for 2014.
As The Equalizer reported in January, internal Canada Soccer documents show that Canada plans to withhold its players from the NWSL before the June 6 start of the 2015 World Cup, which takes place in Canada. In January, a Canada Soccer spokesperson said it would be “premature” to talk about the federation’s role in the NWSL in 2015. And at the time, league executive director Cheryl Bailey said she was unaware of any such plans by Canada Soccer.
“We’re all excited to be involved with the World Cup in Canada next year and we have absolutely no information that anything will change with Canada,” Bailey said in January.
Bailey spoke to media at Sunday’s Thorns-Dash game in Portland, and the message regarding Canada now sounds significantly different.
“We’ve talked to Canada and we’ve certainly not heard at this point that they’re definitely going to be out,” Bailey said on Sunday. “I think it’s more a matter of how we can integrate, just like the U.S. team. We also can’t just assume that the U.S. is going to be here 100 percent during the league because obviously they have commitments, preparation that they have to do as well. So Canada, Mexico and the U.S., we’re in talks with to find out how fast we can blend all that they’ve brought to the NWSL and also give them the opportunity to prepare well for the World Cup.”
Read between the lines, and it’s clear that NWSL teams will be without its U.S., Canada and Mexico players for a significant portion of the 2015 season. That will give other players the opportunity to shine at the league level.
But really, none of this should be a surprise. And it shouldn’t be held against anyone, either. The World Cup is what matters for the United States and Canada, and they haven’t made any secrets of that.
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