US Women's Soccer In A League Of Its Own! Here's why...

The last decade has seen Women's football, continue to flourish globally.

Take the phenomenal impact of the all-conquering and four-time World Cup-winning, US Women's International team. Which has generated game revenue of 50.8 million dollars since winning the 2015 World Cup. Marginally higher than their male counterparts.

Equally, the game in the UK continues to thrive. before the new season, The Women's Super League signed a 24 Million TV deal. The female version of the beautiful game is now beamed live into the homes of a huge sporting demographic.

Whilst, The Champions League, also continues to generate wider interest. With the top clubs in Europe, like Barcelona, Lyon, PSG, going toe-to-toe with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. However, Women's Soccer in the US remains supreme. Both Internationally and domestically. Here's why...

Sporting and Cultural Differences

The success of the National Women's Soccer League can, to a large extent, be attributed to a cultural and sporting philosophy that places an emphasis on equitable competition. That essentially sets the US game apart from any other. The critical difference to leagues in Europe, the UK or anywhere else in the world, is the draft and roster system.

This equitable format, deployed by so many U.S sports, perfectly fits the needs of women's soccer, at this particular stage of its embryonic development. In essence, and critically, it ensures all teams in the NWSL enjoy an equal distribution of the best talent. That also ensures a competitive league where literally any team can beat any other.

The NWSL's, roster format, also prevents any club, from stockpiling the best talent. This then ensures an even distribution of the best players. Not at two or three clubs, but shared throughout the league. Teams like Racing Louisville or Kansas City, who finished in the bottom two, still remained competitive throughout. To the extent both, were a match for anyone and actually beat top teams, during the 20-21 campaign.

This season, the NWSL, saw the emergence of newly, crowned champions, the Washington Spirit. A team that had flown well under the radar regards being considered as serious Championship contenders. The Spirit, has, to their credit, demonstrated extraordinary resilience, having to endure and contend with the well-documented off-field distractions.

Supported by the excellent US collegiate system, the best young talent enjoys an accessible and productive pathway into pro women's soccer. The league continues to produce, rising stars, like, Rookie of the Year, 19-year-old, Trinity Rodman and another breakthrough, star, Ashley Sanchez. These hugely talented youngsters grabbed the goals to defeat favorites, OL Reign, in the Semi-Finals. OL Reign's illustrious line-up included the likes of Megan Rapinhoe, Rose Lavelle and Jess Fishlock. The Spirit, again, entered the final as underdogs, but once more rose to the occasion to take the NWSL Championship, following a 2-1 victory over Chicago Red Star.

Global Legends Show Depth Of NWSL

Remarkably the team that finished third from bottom, was Orlando Pride. A team containing not only England international, Jodie Taylor but also global superstar Alex Morgan and arguably the world's greatest ever female footballer, Brazilian, striker, Marta. Whilst, another US legend, and one of most decorated players of all time, Carli Lloyd, saw her club Gotham FC, finish just above mid-table.

Next season, there's much to look forward to. As the 2022-23 NWSL campaign will see two new teams. Angel City, including new signing and World Cup winner, Christen Press. Plus, San Diego Wave, who are set to be coached by former Man United manager, Casey Stoney. Whilst, beyond that, there's a new women's, Super League, set to launch in 2023. The new Super League is expected to double the number of professional women’s soccer teams in the United States when its inaugural season begins in 2023.

Also, Next season, will see the introduction of the USL W League. Eventually serving as the third tier of US Women's soccer. These new leagues might well facilitate a promotion and relegation structure. Further enhancing the NWSL brand.

Powerful Clubs Dominate In Europe

Compare, that to, the Women's Super League, In England, where players of the stature of, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Vivianne Miedema, are only ever likely to play for the top two or three clubs. Such as Chelsea, Arsenal, or Man City. Those aforementioned, clubs enjoy vastly superior resources. That financial advantage serves to perpetuate their seasonal domination. As these clubs can literally field two teams, such is their strength in depth.

This all-conquering triumvirate, of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City, have, to the exclusion of all other clubs, occupied the top three WSL positions for the last five years. With each of these clubs becoming champions during that period. This unprecedented sequence may well continue. As the usual suspects close in on a sixth consecutive season, of "top three" occupation.

Some might argue this current format is both iniquitous and detrimental to the women's game. As it dilutes the quality of the league as a whole. That's not to be over-critical of these top WSL clubs. Who are of course merely operating within the current rules. As well as replicating the ethos and format of the so-called, world's greatest league, the Premier League. However, there's a significant difference in that the men's game, has been long established. It enjoys a long history not comparable to the burgeoning women's game.

Take, WSL, basement clubs, Birmingham City, and Leicester City, who at the time of writing, have secured just one point between them from nine league games. These teams, are now faced with relegation and potentially, their very survival. In December 2021, In just their third year of Championship football, Coventry United announced they were entering voluntary liquidation. As with many struggling clubs, they've no relative history or established fan base to withstand the inevitable tougher times.

Again, the WSL, like most Women's Football Associations, are well well-intentioned. Striving to improve the women's game and brand. The progress made in the WSL is to be welcomed. Bringing greater media exposure and finance to the game. However, perhaps, it's time to reflect on how it's being done differently and more successfully elsewhere? The current global structures are disparate and lack any unified direction of travel.

Similarly, women's international football requires a more creative and nuanced governance. The World Cup qualification format again has proven to be iniquitous and facile. (Exhibit A: England 20-0 Latvia, (B) Belgium 19-0 Armenia, (C) Spain 12- 0 Faroe Islands) These subsequent mismatches witnessed too often, serve only to damage the integrity of women's football.

There is, however, some positive news regarding the fixture disparity so prevalent at International level. With UEFA's, Head of Women's football, Nadine Kessler. stating, "It’s not good for the development of women’s football, not for smaller or big associations, and it will change as of 2023.” She added, "a Nations League-style competition was being explored as a part of discussions."

A similar restructuring is required in domestic women's football. Hopefully, a less myopic and more universal approach. Perhaps replicating the USA soccer blueprint. Or, creating a similar equitable league format. That would then strengthen the leagues below the top tier. Ensuring a greater challenge to the top coaches. It would also see the best players evenly distributed throughout the league. Instead of, as is the current situation, increasing the gulf between the top and lesser resourced clubs.

Stars Of The Future

The NWSL, structure also ensures players with potential International pedigree are more easily identified. The continued success and dominance of the US Women's International team can, among other factors, be attributed to the NWSL's "ultra-competitive" format.

Such a competitive format in the WSL would better prepare clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea for Champions League football. In recent weeks, both clubs have suffered heavy defeats against the likes of Barcelona, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim. The fact Arsenal and Chelsea currently occupy the top two places in the WSL, should be cause for concern.

Since its inception, the NWSL, has led the way in striking that essential balance of equitable league format and high-quality soccer. Supporters and fans of the NWSL can be assured that EVERY game, whether it's top versus bottom, will be hugely competitive and the result can literally go either way.

Aficionados of the game, often eulogize about the English (men's) Premier League, being the greatest football league in the world. What can be said with equal conviction, is that the National Women's Soccer League remains the standard-bearer and global exemplar within the women's game.

Follow Us
  • Twitter Basic Black
  • Facebook Basic Black
  • Black Google+ Icon
Recent Posts