Where EAST meets the Northwest
SEVENTH SEASON. Ellie Carpenter (right) of the Portland Thorns defends Sam
Kerr (left) of the Chicago Red Stars during a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL)
preseason match held in March at Merlo Field on the campus of the University of
Portland. The NWSL opened its seventh season in April. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #09 (May 6, 2019), page 9.
NWSL’s seventh season opens, looks for bump in World Cup year
By Anne M. Peterson
AP Sports Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) opened its
seventh season with some lingering questions about its health, but also the
encouraging possibility of a "bump" from the World Cup.
The NWSL has already outlasted any of the other previous pro women’s leagues
in the United States. With support from the U.S. Soccer Federation, it has fared
better than the earlier attempts.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns going into Year 7 — many of which
were there in the sixth season, too. Possible expansion, the stability of some
individual clubs, a need for sponsorships, and the lack of a TV deal are among
the issues faced by the league that hasn’t had a commissioner since Jeff Plush
stepped down in March 2017.
Still, the NWSL could get greater exposure starting in June when the World
Cup opens in France. NWSL rosters are filled with national team players from
around the globe. Teams will have to navigate player absences during the
tournament but could win fans for the latter half of the season — much like
after the last World Cup in 2015, which the U.S. won.
Portland Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg said she believes the league is
still headed in the right direction. But continued success will depend on both
investment and the will to see it through.
"The most important thing is investment across the league, in human
resources; whether that’s coaching or whether that’s just staff that’s helping
out, whether that’s in better fields, whether that’s in better housing, whether
that’s in whatever. Making the league better, in the league front office but
also the clubs’ front offices, I want that," she said. "And if we can get that,
year after year after year then I think we’ll be in a good place."
The defending champion North Carolina Courage opened the season with a 1-1
draw at home against the Chicago Red Stars. The Courage defeated the Thorns 3-0
in the title game in front of a crowd of 21,144 in Portland last fall. The
victory capped a fantastic season for the Courage, who went 18-1-6 overall, won
the league’s Supporters’ Shield for best record, and never dropped a game on the
How to watch
The NWSL and A+E Networks terminated their broadcast agreement in February,
leaving the league with no TV partner. Last season, a "Game of the Week" aired
on the Lifetime channel. A+E also surrendered its stake in the league, but
Lifetime remains a jersey sponsor.
At least for now, the league’s games will be streamed live exclusively on the
Yahoo Sports app, or on the Yahoo website.
The league currently stands at nine teams. Since the Boston Breakers folded
just before the start of last season, there have been persistent rumors about
whether the team will be revived by a new ownership group. Spanish club
Barcelona had expressed interest in fielding an NWSL team, although there has
been no movement on that front. Major League Soccer’s LAFC could also jump into
the fray, with co-owner Mia Hamm suggesting as recently as early April that it
is a priority.
Despite all the chatter, NWSL president Amanda Duffy previously indicated the
league likely won’t make any expansion announcements until after this season.
What’s going on with Sky Blue?
The troubles that plagued New Jersey’s team, Sky Blue, were well documented
last year after former player Sam Kerr, now with Chicago, hinted at issues. But
improvements have been made.
In February, Sky Blue announced that Tammy Murphy, the wife of part-owner
governor Phil Murphy, would take a more active role in running the team. And
indeed, improvements have been made, with better housing and staff additions.
The team will train this season at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New
Jersey, and have access to the school’s wellness facilities in addition to
Tony Novo, who served as team president and general manager, resigned and
Alyse LaHue was named interim GM. Novo had been criticized by the Cloud 9
The league will take a short break during the group stage of the World Cup in
France. But a chunk of the league’s players will be away with their national
teams for extended periods this season. The NWSL allowed teams to expand rosters
to 22 players, in addition to four supplemental players who won’t count against
the salary cap.
Teams play a 24-game schedule that wraps up October 12. The championship game
is scheduled for October 26.
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