NWSL – What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Quite a bit of shade being thrown by Alex Morgan, the rumored marquee player of NWSL’s newest expansion team Orlando Pride. Orlando’s entrance into the league is also rumored to be based on the ability to acquire Morgan. Morgan is said to have requested to leave Portland Thorns FC who are owned by MLS side Portland Timbers for personal reasons, she’d like to play in the same city as her husband. Her husband, Servando Carrasco,  plays for Orlando Pride owner’s MLS side, Orlando City SC.   If that seems all too coincidental..join the club.

If you read almost any interview with NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush where the subject of expansion comes up you’ll see these phrases repeated again and again; passionate ownership group, quality venue, business infrastructure, team-controlled venue if possible, quality marketplace. You’ll also routinely see him say that MLS teams aren’t necessarily the only way to expand, but they’re attractive because they have all those things. It doesn’t take very much to read between the lines to see an MLS team fits most all of the desired qualities. And the first two league expansions have gone to MLS teams.

So, I’m left with the question: What does NWSL want to be when it grows up?

Does it want to forever be the little sister to MLS’s big brother? Check out Seattle Sounders entry level salaries after 20 years of MLS growth, is that the type of league NWSL wants to be? Does it want to be a league where 20 years from now players are still not making as much as they could using their college degree? Does it want to be a league that still takes a back seat to every male sport when being considered for innovation and growth? Does it want a league that people refer to as WMLS?

Or..does it want to be a league that can lead the way for women in professional sports? Does it want to be the league that school kids and high school kids and college kids and all the adults that surround them and support them see as being a step ahead and a step above? Does it want to grow the game in such a way that the product on the field is exciting and unencumbered by low expectations of people who see it as a side show and not the main attraction Does it want to be the league that shows the United States and by extension the world, that what has gone before does not need to be repeated, but can be improved upon without selling your soul to the highest bidder. Does it want to be a league that is creative and innovative in the way it interacts with and attracts new fans?

I’m under no illusions here. I realize all of these high ideals take money and lots of it. I’m also of the opinion that how you get that money is just as important as how you spend it.

I don’t think MLS is inherently evil, it’s a business like hundreds of others in sport, but I don’t think the business focus is necessarily on doing the best things for women’s soccer. WoSo is not men’s soccer with less testosterone. It has a history and a struggle all its own that makes it different and resonates with its fans. I’m not convinced, by Portland or Houston, and now Orlando that they fully grasp what makes WoSo different. The founders of NWSL are a pretty unique group. With the exception (to my knowledge) of Kansas City, Portland and Seattle they’ve all been intimately involved with the struggle to create and maintain a women’s pro soccer league. They are five in number and now are matched by 5 owners who don’t come from that background. The league is at a crossroads where they truly have to decide what they want to become.

What do you want the NWSL to be when it grows up? Let me know in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “NWSL – What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

  1. Brilliant note…I have followed woso but not the MLS and while we had one team to begin with Paulson has been strongly pushing for his MLS buddies..with the advent of Plush (also ex MLS) this has reached critical mass. Paulson finally got to host the championship game and we have the second MLS team that was favoured with a earlier entry to the league because of its demands..I don’t like where this is going for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You don’t like what you see? Because I see a WoSo league that is finally expanding instead of dying. When I go to games in PDX I see a fanbase that has been hungry for women’s soccer for a long time. When I look at Orlando, I see a market that got fired up for MLS year one, and a I see a location that’s attractive to traveling fans.

      I don’t think teams should have to be affiliated with MLS to get in and stay in the league, but WoSo players deserve great facilities and fans. If you’re going to complain about what look like effective ways to get those things, I think you need to present some concrete alternatives.

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      • No, I don’t like what I see in regards to how the league is expanding. You don’t think teams should have to be affiliated with MLS to get in, but that’s the reality if you look at the criteria the league has set out for expansion and other markets that NWSL are in talks with to expand. There are organizations that are not MLS that are interested in expansion and we’ll see if any of those get more than a cursory look from the league. NWSL by jumping on the MLS bandwagon is setting itself up to forever be in the shadow of the men’s team of the MLS side. There is a difference between MLS ownership and MLS partnership or affiliation, with partnership/affiliation the women’s team has more autonomy and control over everything associated with the team and isn’t just the female version of the men’s side. In addition I think using MLS as their vehicle for expansion is allowing the league a fast easy way to do it without addressing some of the inherent shortcomings of a start up league. More, faster, isn’t always the best way to go. A balanced organic growth of the league is what will make it resilient in the long run.

        Just as an aside, the Orlando Pride’s use of an existing pro women’s team name, in the same market with overlapping seasons, is an indication that they have little regard for the struggle of women’s pro sports in the country. In other markets the WoSo teams have embraced their counterparts in women’s pro sports. Orlando doesn’t seem to care about that other than to say what they did is legal. That is an inherent difference between men’s and women’s sport that I don’t want to lose.

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