Women's Soccer is here to stay
Updated: Aug 3
Women’s soccer is not a phase, nor is it a quadrennial occasion. Women’s soccer is alive and well as far as Australia and as close to home as Washington DC. Women’s soccer is not a rarity, leagues such as The NWSL, The Westfield W-League, FA Women’s Super League, Frauen Bundesliga, and so many more exist and attract global talent. Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Megan Rapinoe, and the entire USWNT play in the NWSL as do many other International and domestic talents from a myriad of cities and countries.
The NWSL is a star studded league composed of nine teams, The North Carolina Courage, Portland Thorns FC, The Chicago Red Stars, OL Reign, The Washington Spirit, Sky Blue FC, Utah Royals FC, and The Orlando Pride. There are teams in the backyard of Americans all across the US, and the league only looks to expand. Racing Louisville FC will enter the NWSL in 2021, further expanding the reach of the league. Needless to say, talent comes from far and wide to fill the rosters of teams like the North Carolina Courage and OL Reign. All of these teams feature the best players and all of these teams fight tooth and nail for recognition that they so evidently deserve. These players win World Cup’s, Olympic Medals, Golden Gloves, Golden Boots, FIFA Player of the year awards, and International titles. These players have earned every accolade you could dream of and have worked that much harder to do so.
You may think that Women’s soccer is boring, that no one cares, that is where you are wrong. In Portland, Oregon, Providence Park, the location in which Portland Thorns FC and Portland Timbers play, is electric when the Thorns play. They sell out every game and have one of the largest and most dedicated fan bases in the game, selling out more frequently than their male counterparts.You may say that that is a fluke, a rarity, but it is not. In 2017 and 2018, Thorns FC had an average attendance higher than six MLS teams. The Washington Spirit played two games at Audi Field last year and one the year before, selling out all three games easily, surpassing DC United’s average 2019 attendance.
You may say there’s nothing to complain about, that conditions are not comparable, but again, you are wrong. Sky Blue FC, one of the founding members of the NWSL, recently announced a move to Red Bull Arena after having played since its inception, at Rutgers Yurcak field, a University soccer pitch with 5,000 seats, an undesirable, inaccessible location to say the least. The management failed to provide players with suitable housing and the players had to live in homes with broken windows and perverted landlords, far from training locations. Per RJ Allen and Erica Ayala of Deadspin, "The other house, you would not let your dogs sleep in. [Players] had to cardboard up the windows [and] had plastic bags for windows. It was the most disgusting place you’ve ever seen in your life.” Rookies or less senior members of the team were regularly moved two or three times in a season". As Hope Solo so eloquently put, “There were a handful of teams that had less than adequate facilities for ‘professional’ athletes, but Sky Blue was always the worst". There were no locker rooms on site, players had to change and shower in cramped trailers, offsite. In order to save money, the team would check players out of their hotel rooms early and have them sit in a single room with all of their luggage. These disgusting conditions, coupled with meager salaries led to difficulty on the field, the team struggled and lacked suitable coaching.
Things truly began to change for the better when Alyse LaHue, current General Manager, was hired. LaHue continues to work tirelessly to fix a system that never should have been broken, and the team has begun to receive what they deserve and secured Red Bull Arena as their new home. A team like Liverpool is guaranteed these things from day one, along with a six figure salary, an income that a select few NWSL players make. A team like Liverpool has also never been silenced whilst advocating for basic amenities, because they have never had to do so.
You may complain about the lack of sports, you may complain about paying $6 for being able to view twenty-three NWSL games in their 2020 Challenge Cup following yet another U.S. World Cup win, but you know that you would spend double that at a single game, gorging yourself on whatever concessions you see fit. $6 to see some of the best athletes in the world is a small fee to pay.
The NWSL is not a joke, it is not boring or a waste of time, it is some of the most exciting, inspiring, and entertaining play you will see. These players deserve your attention, especially as these stars make up the first professional sports league in the U.S. to return to action. Women’s soccer is not a concept or an idea for the future, the time is now and has been for a long time, the players deserve more and they have earned more.
The NWSL is not a charity case, it's athletes are women fighting ten times harder to obtain the luxuries handed to men's teams.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/FIFA via Getty Images