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State of the NWSL: Amanda Duffy on salaries, rosters, Sky Blue, expansion and a commissioner update

Robin Alam/ISI Photos

CHICAGO – National Women’s Soccer League managing director Amanda Duffy held a state of the league during the 2019 NWSL Draft. Duffy touched on a variety of key topics, including the hiring of more women; diversity; Sky Blue FC’s role in providing better resources; expansion; and possibly taking on the role of NWSL commissioner.

Here are some highlights:

Expanded rosters; new salary figures

The NWSL has increased roster sizes per team by two, to 22. The league has also added four supplemental roster spots that will allow teams to sign up to four additional players at the league minimum who will not count against the salary cap.

The new team salary cap is $421,500 for each team, an increase of $54,000. The minimum and maximum salary figures will be rising to $16,538 and $46,200, respectively. Additionally, the Permitted Team Assistance Cap has nearly doubled from the previous season. Those figures were leaked for the first time.

Below are quotes from Duffy on some other pressing topics.

Women working in the NWSL

“I think generally we want more women working in sports, more women working in soccer, more female coaches that are a part of NWSL. Specifically in the development ranks leading up to NWSL, we worked with U.S. Soccer towards the end of 2018 to coordinate a C-license course to help facilitate the education that goes into coaching. We’re really proud of the turnout of the players, the support of Utah Royals, and U.S. Soccer in making that course work. It has put us in a position to create a foundation and build on it with the development and creation of the education piece of it.

“It’s also about creating the opportunities. We certainly want to see an improvement and more women in the game. More female coaches in the NWSL. That’s someone that we’re going to continue to work towards through various platforms and avenues that will get us there.”

Rooney Rule

The Rooney Rule is an NFL rule requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching vacancies and certain other positions.

“We have requirements in the process that require the diversity to be included in the process of hiring for certain positions in place for NWSL.”

Asked if any team has ever been in violation of these requirements, Duffy said: “No.”

Sky Blue FC improving facilities and resources

“I think the entire league feels pressure to continue to work, build, and develop what they’re doing at the local level. For all the organizations there’s improvement and work to be done. Some organizations my feel that a little more publicly, and a little more visibly, and probably last year Sky Blue felt that. We’re working with their ownership and have been for some time on the steps that need to be taken for that organization to show progress in the areas that the league believes should show progress.”

EXTRA: Hailie Mace does not intend to report to Sky Blue

Specific steps Sky Blue FC have taken

“There are steps that are being taken, and we have worked with the Sky Blue ownership group in identifying what we want to see and the timeline, and the timeline that we want to see those. We’ll continue to work with the Sky Blue ownership to make sure that moves in the right direction.”

Strict standards for facilities

“We have those and we’re continuing to evaluate what those standards are now, and if we need to re-evaluate what they are for the overall future improvement, development and overall Division I professional women’s league.”

Players not wanting to be drafted to organizations like Sky Blue FC

“I think players coming into NWSL should be proud and excited to play in the league. We’re starting our seventh season right now. There’s been no other professional women’s soccer league in the United States that’s operated this long. There’s been a lot of progress that’s been made. Over the six seasons that the league has operated, I think every step that we take, the league is in the right direction. It’s in the right direction for the stability of the league, longevity and the overall professionalism of what we’re operating.

“I would like to believe that every player that is drafted today, or invited into any training camp understands that this isn’t an opportunity that’s always been there and it’s not guaranteed for the future. We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that the environments, resources, and situations in the markets continue to improve.”

EXTRA: Tierna Davidson decided that NWSL was her best shot at the World Cup

Expansion, and New York

“Expansion is something that we continue to work on and make great progress. We’ve made a significant amount of progress in the last 6-12 months with identifying markets, ownership (groups), and really trying to take steps in intentional ways that bring us into markets with quality ownership, facilities, quality match venues, and can provide the resources that the players need to be successful, and are going to propel this league forward.

“New York is a great market. Between New York and L.A, we’re talking about the top media markets in the United States. It would certainly be a benefit to the league to have a larger presence in that market. We continue to work on that and want any expansion with the league, is with the right groups, and situations that do bring the league forward.”

FC Barcelona

“It’s a dialogue that has been on-going for some time now. Certainly more than a year. An organization, club, or brand would certainly add value to NWSL. Not just domestically, but on a global scale. We continue to have positive conversations with Barcelona.”

MORE: Barcelona to NWSL? Not so fast

Back to Boston

“We saw over a decade that Boston is proven to be a good women’s soccer market. It’s got to be with the right situation and we’re really steadfast on making sure that we’re not interested in expanding just to expand. It’s got to be with the right groups. For the continued stability that we’re trying to achieve, and having the right situations, like a Utah that’s come in and provided every resource, and every item that a player could need to be successful. They’ve done it the right way and so have other expansion teams. We’ve learned from that. As we talk to these groups we’re doing it at the right time and with the right people.”

2020 Expansion

“A lot of great conversations are going on right now, and we still anticipate to be on that timeline.

“It would depend [how many teams in 2020]. We certainly want to get back to 10 teams, where we were a year ago. I think that’s important for us. The right number where this league can operate and keep the competitive level right now is really important. It’s going to be at a pace that can contain that competitive level, but also get us in the right markets, and situations.”

Emerging Markets

“There’s some markets that we’re focused on. None that we’ll share at this time, but markets that we’re focused on and are really making strides with the groups that we’re talking to.”

Commissioner Role

“That’s in the hands of the owners right now. It’s always been in their hands.

“I enjoy working with this league and I enjoy being a part of moving the things forward that we’re moving. Making it a stronger league and working with these owners to make it a better league in each of these markets. This is a league that continues to show its progress and I’m proud of what we’re doing, and excited to continue doing that work.”

Why hasn’t she been given that title?

“There’s several factors that go into the structure of our league. Between our partnerships and the governing of how we operate is all taken into consideration. As the owners look forward to what they want with this league, what path do we ultimately want to be on for NWSL and defining the role and what the commissioner position is. That’s a part of that conversation. They’re continuing to have it and I’m excited to continue to be a part of that growth.”

TV deal

“Right now, we know that all of our digital games will move from the Go90 platform to Yahoo Sports from the 2019 season. Beyond that, we’ll have more details once we have our schedule in place from the 2019 season.”

2019 NWSL schedule

“We anticipate very soon. We’re actively working on that right now. [We] expect to have that to you very soon.”

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