Kansas City Current midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta was only sort of joking last month when she said the rest of the National Women’s Soccer League was trying to copy her team’s success.
“Everyone would want to be like us,” she said in jest during a brief respite from the Florida sun.
The thing is, there was some truth to her statement. Kansas City’s heavy investment into all areas of the business includes extensive preseason plans to get players out of the cold Midwest winter and into better weather for preseason in both Florida and California. Last year, the Current went to Florida for preseason and made a run to the NWSL Championship. Team personnel from coaches to players and the front office credited that preseason trip to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, with getting the squad off to a good start during the season.
Other teams noticed, too. NJ/NY Gotham FC general manager Yael Averbuch West spoke with Kansas City general manager Camille Levin about how the Current went from last in 2021 to the league championship the following year. Gotham hopes to repeat the trajectory after an abysmal 2022 season, and team readiness is one of the three big areas the club identified as needing improvement.
“Their model of preseason, how they view preparation is something to be copied,” Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch West told The Equalizer. “If you want to make a significant jump and be way better than last year, there’s no one better in the league to look at.”
Gotham and Kansas City are among six NWSL teams that traveled to Florida for at least part of their preseason. Add in the Orlando Pride, and over half the league spent some of preseason in the Sunshine State, which is a new high. Weather is part of the reason for the travel, given the NWSL’s earliest preseason start in history, in late January, but the trend speaks volumes about increasing investment across the league.
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