Busy Winter for National Women’s Soccer League

It has been a busy January for women’s soccer in the United States. The National Women’s Soccer League continues to put pieces in place for April’s kickoff.

The 2017 season will be the league’s fifth season and it could prove to be the NWSL’s defining moment. While much of the news from the league has revolved around team relocation, player trades and the annual draft, other news has leaked out.

Could USWNT players strike? 

US Soccer pays the members of the United States Women’s soccer national team that compete in the NWSL. But as 2016 ended, so did the collective bargaining agreement between the two sides.

The USWNT members are now working on the expired CBA as neither side can agree on terms for a new one. US Soccer continues to be unwilling to pay the ladies a fair price for their athletic abilities.

The players fired their representative, Rich Nichols, in December and the hell fire and brimstone of last summer’s media storm has become quiet.

It isn’t difficult to see why both Crystal Dunn and Alex Morgan left for Europe. While sporting reasons can be believed, the idea that the two would be on strike during the season must have helped make the decision easier.

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Women’s soccer players who don’t have their salaries subsidized by US Soccer can earn anywhere between $7,200 and $39,700. A ridiculous gap that needs narrowing if the league is to continue to produce or attract top stars.

Like many of the men who played in Major League Soccer prior to the league’s boom from 2010 onward, many of the players in the NWSL support their soccer careers with other jobs.

The USWNT players striking during the NWSL season is a reality, and it seems US Soccer is ready to face that situation. The NWSL will carry on as the non-USWNT players continue the season.

One can only assume mudslinging to ensue, but the fact that US Soccer will use the NWSL as proof the players aren’t needed is unwise. By not paying the players their worth and lowering the NWSL’s standard will only hurt women’s professional soccer in the US.

It also seems US Soccer wants to starve the players until they need whatever pay is being offered.

The NWSL is the USA’s third attempt at professional women’s soccer. Haggling over a few dollars could set back women’s soccer in America once more.

On the bright side

The NWSL’s new season will see a new club of sorts. Last year’s NWSL Final champions, Western New York Flash, has relocated to North Carolina. Now known as the Courage, the league has turned a corner in women’s soccer.

At one time the league would have operated with one team fewer. However, a buyer was found and Steve Malik now moves the franchise to Cary, North Carolina, where he will pair them with his FC Carolina men’s team.

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FC Kansas City is also under new ownership as Minnesota businessman Elam Baer has bought the team. No word on whether he will relocate the franchise. But with the precedence of it occurring in the NWSL, it can’t be ruled out.

The Future

Like the men’s MLS, the NWSL is looking to expand in 2018. It won’t be on the same level as the men’s league, but the NWSL hopes to add one or two sides.

Vice Sports reported that Los Angeles and Vancouver could be two options. Los Angeles FC will begin MLS play in 2018, and pairing a women’s soccer team to enter at the same time would be a major coup. It doesn’t hurt that Mia Hamm is an investor with LAFC.

Vancouver would be the NWSL’s first foray into Canada, and like Portland and Seattle, it is a red-hot market for soccer. There is also a ready made rivalry between the three cities on the MLS side, which would most likely translate to women’s soccer.

2017 NWSL Draft

The Boston Breakers got its reward for finishing the 2016 NWSL season with the worst points total. That reward came in the form of the No. 1 draft pick as the team chose Wisconsin’s Rose Lavelle.

The 2015 and 2016 Big Ten Midfielder of the Year should slot right into the side. She was one of four Breakers’ sections in the first round.

Lavelle already has USWNT experience and could be one of the team’s big stars in the future.

2017 NWSL College Draft Results: (Courtesy of NWSL.com)

— Round 1 –

No. 1 – Rose Lavelle – Wisconsin (Boston Breakers)
No. 2 – Ashley Hatch – BYU (North Carolina Courage)
No. 3 – Morgan Andrews – USC (Boston Breakers)
No. 4 – Kayla Mills – USC (Sky Blue FC)
No. 5 – Christina Gibbons – Duke (FC Kansas City)
No. 6 – Maddie Bauer – Stanford (Seattle Reign FC)
No. 7 – Darian Jenkins – UCLA (North Carolina Courage)
No. 8 – Ifeoma Onumonu – CAL (Boston Breakers)
No. 9 – Margaret Purce – Harvard (Boston Breakers)
No. 10 – Miranda Freeman – USC (Sky Blue FC)

Drew Farmer
I am a freelance journalist and author currently living in Manchester, England. Originally from the USA, I have written about sports and travel for years.I have written for Hopeless Football Romantic magazine, The Football Pink magazine, World Soccer Talk, Sports Collectors Daily, Forza Italian Football and many more. My debut book Soccer Travels was released in spring 2016, and details travelling to soccer matches around the globe. It can be purchased on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.