“In My Opinion……….”
If you are a numbers person, and also a fan of women’s professional soccer, the number “3″ has some significance.
There are two sides of #3 as in “third time’s the charm” and “three strikes, you’re out!”
In less than a month’s time, the third attempt at putting a U.S Division I women’s professional league on the field will launch on April 13 at a high school stadium in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.
FC Kansas City will host the Portland Thorns in the season opener of the National Women’s Soccer League.
The two previous leagues, the Women’s United Soccer Association and Women’s Professional Soccer, both lasted…..ready for this? Three years!
The WUSA, well funded, ran through most of a $100 million anchor in the first 18 months. The WPL was under funded, with well-intended and well-heeled owners, who were not ready for to suffer the financial losses that a season produced.
That league was a turnstile of franchises, including the exit of a pair of league champions in the season after they won it all.
This time, the new league has a reasonable financial model, and reasonable expectations. Eight teams, a number of which are in venues that previously had either a WUSA or WPS franchise will begin a 22-game season that is evenly divided with 11 games at home and 11 games away.
U.S. Soccer actually administers the new league, and the soccer federations off the United States, Canada and Mexico are paying the salaries of their national team players playing in the league. USSF is bankrolling the salaries 24 players and Canada and Mexico are each playing for 16 each.
There has been very little spent in the way of promotions and communications, other than to build a website. League offices are within the walls of Soccer House in Chicago, and staff is bare-bones.
There is no big television deal, and the responsibility of local promotions falls to each franchise. By limiting expenditures, the league has reduced the number of people in the stands in order for each team to secure revenue and pay their bills.
Expectations are low, and the future of the teams and the league will be determined by results, both on the field in terms of wins and losses, and outside the lines in terms of how well the local team draws fans and attracts sponsors.
So is it a “back to the future” approach. Absolutely! Why follow the models of the previous two leagues. Those models didn’t work.
At the time, the WUSA, formed in 2000 after the success of the 1999 FIFA World Cup championship, was said to have needed an average of 4,000-5,000 fans to break even.
Thus, a cold spring evening, or a rainy summer night, could wreck the plan, and loss of attendance could never be recaptured.
It’s a good deal for the three federations, which will benefit by having their players playing 22 competitive games in a league in a year without major international competitions. They would have paid their players even if the alternative was a series of residential training camps.
Yes, the league has a modest salary cap, and no, the players aren’t wildly compensated. There are no major international soccer stars, outside of the Americans, Canadians and Mexicans.
After all, Brazil’s Marta, and her league-leading contract, is the common denominator on the first two league championship teams that folded before their second seasons. Smart move.
Major League Soccer recently began its 18th season. The league has worked because of the conservative approach, including the league’s single entity format.
MLS has grown in many ways. Slow and steady. The NWSL can do the same. Patience, and two visions of the league wants to be at the end of the season and where it wants to be in five seasons, are the keys to success.
Oh yes, you can play a roll in that success.
If you are a fan of the United State’s Women’s National Team and the U.S. players, plan to support the NWSL team in your area.
If no NWSL team is close to you, plan a trip to see your favorite players play. Do it early in the season, which gives you a good early look and games left in the season for another trip.
If you don’t attend games, you actually give up a reasonable authority to complain if things aren’t going well.
You can look at rosters, and get some perspective on how the teams might play and how successful they may be. But a month out from the season opener no one really knows.
Looking for a guarantee, here it is. One team will win the league title and another will finish #8 and last.
In the meantime, these teams need your support. It’s League #3. There will likely never be a League #4!!