Soccer

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New Women’s Soccer League Enters the Field, but Can it Survive?

27 Jan, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

A new pro-am women’s soccer organization wants to capture some of the momentum lost in the dissolution of the W-League. United Women’s Soccer (UWS) is sanctioned by US Soccer through USASA, and says it will commence its inaugural season in spring 2016.

According to an article in Soccer America Daily, the organization is hoping to build on interest in teams seeking a home following the demise of the W-League or having dissatisfaction with the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL.) UWS hopes to become what it describes as a “national second division league” with collegians and aspiring pro players sanctioned by USASA. In addition, the UWS says it will promote the women’s game to younger players, gaining a fan base that will help grow support for women’s soccer worldwide.

In a statement, the league said it will begin an open application process within the next few weeks. UWS announced six teams from the East Coast, among them the New England Mutiny, New York Magic and Long Island Rough Riders; it further stated that it will be adding a West region for play in its inaugural season. Two Quebec-based teams, the Laval Comets  and the Quebec Dynamo, have also indicated their interest, contingent upon the approval of the Canadian Soccer Association.

The league will begin an open application process within the next few weeks and will be managed by EDP, which will oversee day-to-day operations, as well as the applications process from interested teams.

But however good the goals of UWS are, it remains to be seen whether the organization can flourish in the current sports environment. The WPSL still exists with many more teams than the W-League had. In addition, the top-level National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will have 10 teams in 2016, including Seattle Reign FC.

In general, women’s soccer leagues have had a hard time maintaining solid footing. The W-League is hardly the first women’s soccer organization to fold and its demise was almost inevitable. The organization, which had started strong in 1995 and by 2008 had 48 teams, had dwindled to 18 teams by this year and sponsorship was not forthcoming.

Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) waved its own white flag in 2013, the second women’s soccer group to do so since 1999. The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) was the world's first women's soccer league in which all the players were paid as professionals. Founded in February 2000, the league began its first season in April 2001 with eight teams in the United States. The league suspended operations in September of 2003. The Women's Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL Elite) was a women's professional soccer league created by the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) to support the sport in the United States, both from continued interest by WPSL teams in professionalism and as a response to the suspension (and ultimate demise) of the WPS. Unfortunately, it too folded in 2013.

The New York Times, in an essay entitled, “Why Is Women’s Soccer Still Fighting to Exist?” noted multiple problems with the sport, despite its shining potential. And while the victory on the World Cup stage has done much to boost the sport’s image – and with the Summer Olympics on the horizon – much still remains to be done.

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