The National Women's Soccer League will begin its inaugural season in 2013. The new domestic women's league will look to succeed where its two predecessors have failed.
Both the WUSA and Women's Professional Soccer folded after three seasons of action. However, the new league will succeed. So what makes the NWSL different?
First, the NWSL will operate, and be funded, out of U.S. Soccer's offices. Former United States women's national team general manager Cheryl Bailey will serve as the league's executive director. In a press release by U.S. Soccer, Bailey said:
"The new league is another extension of that and a vitally important part of the continued growth of the sport in the United States. I am dedicated to ensuring that this league is set up with the best possible business model that emphasizes sustainability above all else while giving players a competitive environment in which to play and creating something special for young girls to aspire to."
The previous leagues did not have the power of the national federation behind it with such power. U.S. Soccer will also subsidize the salaries for up to 24 of the national team players. Another step to help lessen the financial burden on the eight founding teams.
U.S. Soccer is not alone. For the first time the other two major North American federations will also be a part of the new league. The Canadian Soccer Association will fund up to 16 national team members, and the Federation of Mexican Football will fund up to 12 of their players to join the NWSL. This is an unprecedented move for the women's game.
More than 50 players across eight teams will have their salaries paid for. This move will help all the teams operate without worry about their bottom line putting them under.
With the CSA's involvement is important as the 2015 Women's World Cup is being held across Canada. This will be a mutually beneficial move for them, the league and women's soccer in general. CSA President Victor Montagliani knows this is a great opportunity:
“Following the leadership of Sunil and the US Federation we quickly jumped on board with respect to this concept,” Victor Montagliani, president of CSA, said. “We’re very happy about today’s announcement. We are hosting the next Women’s World Cup in 2015 and it’s a great opportunity to leverage that event into having our players playing in a professional environment.”
Having the national team members from these three nations will help ensure the league will be very competitive.
Along with the power of U.S. Soccer behind the new venture there is a significant “handshake deal” with a national sponsor according to Equalizer Soccer. That sponsor is most likely Nike. A coup for the start-up league.
However, the biggest reason the NWSL will succeed is that success is relative.
While many fans think of success as a league means multi-million dollar television deals that is not the case. Expectations are modest for the new league, and with the major federations and Nike supporting it then they are already ahead of the curve.
Women's athletics in general are still gradually gaining an audience. ESPN launched espnW in 2010. More media is being devoted to women's athletics. With the popularity of the USWNT the NWSL can instantly become one of the leaders in that market space.
There is a commitment to make this new league work because of what it means for the women's game. The road will be long and there will be ups and downs, and the NWSL does not need a windfall of cash to be considered a success. Think back to how slow the MLS took things and look at where they are now.
The third time will be the charm because of the backing from U.S. Soccer and the other major federations. There is a united front to make this a success.