The USL announces a new professional women's league to match the NWSL (2023)

The USL Super League plans to approve soccer for Division I by September 1, 2023, it announced Tuesday.

This is a change from the league's previous announcement in 2021 that Super Leaguewould apply for Division II sanctionsSupposed to launch in 2023, it will now be pushed back to 2024. The Super League hopes to launch next year as a 10-12 team league, although it has eight initial markets at the time of the press release, with more to be announced in the months ahead.

The first fair for the 2024 season


Charlotte, North Carolina

Jima McPhilliamy'ego

American Legion Memorial Stadium

Dallas/Forth Worth, Texas

family in

To determine

Lexington, Kentucky

Bill Shively, Donna Shively, Stephen Dawahare

W League team currently at Toyota Stadium, plans for the future of the stadium are in the works

Phoenix, Arizona.

Ownership group of Phoenix Rising FC

Estadio Phoenix Rising FC

Pranie Spokane.

Sports Equality, LLC (Katie Harnetiaux, Ryan Harnetiaux)

The stadium is currently under construction, opening in autumn 2023

Tampa Bay, Florida.

Darryl Shaw, David Laxer, Jeff Fox

Find temporary stadium locations, planned future stadium

Tucson, Arizona.

Jon Pearlman Jeff Arnold

To determine


Reach Sports and Entertainment (Greg Baroni) in association with D.C. united

To determine

Four other cities would also compete in subsequent seasons (listed with venue):

  • Chattanooga, Tennessee - Bob Martino
  • Indianapolis: Indy Eleven founder and president Ersal Ozdemir and CEO Greg Stremlaw.
  • Jacksonville, Florida — Tim Tebow, Ricky Caplin, Tony Allegretti, Steve Livingstone
  • Madison, Wisconsin - Delantero Madison-eigendomsgroep
  • Oakland, CA - owner of the Oakland Roots and Oakland Soul group

"The USL Super League will sit at the top of our female pyramid with strong ownership groups, state-of-the-art stadiums and passionate fans to ensure immediate profitability and long-term stability," USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement issued by the league.

Existing men's USL clubs that will field a women's Super League team include Lexington SC, Phoenix Rising FC, FC Tucson, Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, Oakland Roots and Forward Madison.

So said Superliga president Amanda Vandervort.athleticthat the decision to choose sanctions DI over the originally planned DII "has been under discussion for some time", although he declined to say whether the delay from 2023 to 2024 was related to that conversation.

Vandervort said they have time to push through the league's original more infrastructure within the Super Leagueon the creation of a "pre-professional" W League, which started in 2022 with 44 clubs and will expand to 65 in 2023, as well as its youth-to-pro transition and the launch of a women's academy in summer 2023.

Asked if the Super League is confident that 10-12 teams will be ready by 2024, Vandervort said: "Absolutely."

"Division I level standards, we are confident that as a competition we will meet these standards," he added. "So the decision to move up to Division I was something we made together with our ownership groups, but we firmly believe that bringing the highest standards of football to the women who play in our league is not only our opportunity, but also our responsibility, and we are very excited".

by USA Soccer, a Division I women's outdoor competitionincludes the following standards:

  • At least eight teams to apply for sanctions.
  • Teams must be in at least two time zones in the first year and expand to three time zones (East, Central and Pacific) by the sixth year.
  • At least 75 percent of the league's clubs must play in metropolitan markets with at least 750,000 inhabitants.
  • Minimum stadium capacity 5,000.
  • Equipment owner groups must demonstrate the financial ability to operate for three years.
  • Major team owner with at least a 35 percent stake in a team with an individual net worth of at least $15 million.
  • The ownership group must have total assets of at least $25 million.
  • The league must have a full-time, year-round staff, including a chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and director of marketing/public relations.

and what aboutNWSL?

There is also the reality that any professional women's DI league in the US will inevitably compare itself to the NWSL, perhaps even causing the market to be unable to keep up with the sudden influx of a dozen new professional teams at present. Vandervort encouraged a more optimistic outlook on the country's current professional women's soccer landscape, saying the market is currently strong enough to make the DI Super League viable.


"The US has 12 women's professional teams, but they have roughly the same size and population as all of Europe, and they have over 150 of the top women's professional teams," Vandervort noted.

This comparison may not be entirely direct, as these women's professional teams in Europe operate in their respective countries, where budgets can differ significantly from the needs of clubs in the continental United States and have varying levels of popularity. . . But given USL's experience in developing regional soccer footprints for both men and women, a comparison might be appropriate as well.

The Superleague will also differ from the NWSL in at least two major respects: first, it will conform to an international calendar with a fall-to-summer schedule, unlike the NWSL which starts in the spring and ends in the late fall. and secondly, for the lack of a university project.

The lack of design is consistent with USL's general youth trail creation ethos; in previous announcements about the USL girls academy, he said sothey will not use an age bracket for their academy teamsunder the "if you're good enough, you're old enough" mentality. The NWSL has also started moving more towards a similar mindset with recent signings such as the 15-year-old.Melanie BárcenasFor himgolf w san diegoand 15 years oldChloe's ricketsFor himWashington Ghost, but a phenomenon for 18 yearsAlyssa Thompsonhas yet to make it through the 2023 draft (although it was clear he would land in L.A. withcity ​​of Angelsas option #1).

Vandervort said the Super League wants to be competitive in player salaries (the current NWSL minimum wage is $36,400).

"We want to be competitive on the international market, on the American market," he said. "Player compensation details, player standards, all of that, we're excited to talk to our ownership groups, to our players."


Another encouraging factor, Vandervort said, is that USL W League attendance was high in early 2023, with over 5,800 in the Oakland Soul home debut on May 13 and a double-twist against the Roots, and a 4,743 in Detroit City's home opener on May 13. against Flint City AFC. The Marquee W League team, the Minnesota Aurora, had a lot of attendance last year compared to those operating in a minor league;The Aurora had several sales in 2022, including a sold-out championship game in front of 6,200 fans andaverage regular season attendance of 5,115.

These numbers equal or better than several NWSL teams in 2022 such asNorth Carolina Courage, NJ/NY Gotham en deorlando trout, all of whom were below the 5,000 average that season. However, it's clear that the NWSL wants to push for bigger goals, with the San Diego Wave and Angel City freshman expansion teams averaging 8,792 and 19,105 respectively.

The Super League may have found its own niche, aiming for a more comfortable average attendance and slightly less stellar spending than flashyit reported $50 million plus expansion costswhich the NWSL is now calling for and seems to be reflected in the stadiums announced so far. The American Legion Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 10,500, the new Phoenix Rising FC Stadium has a capacity of 10,000 and Lexington Sporting Club's current home, Toyota Stadium in Georgetown, has a capacity of 5,000.

“There are so many opportunities in this country,” Vandervort said of concerns that two DI leagues would overwhelm a market not ready for such rapid growth, especially given the league’s history of demise in the US. "Ultimately, I think we're bridging the gap of opportunity and it's our responsibility to do it at the highest level."

USL is already partnering with international consulting firm Octagon to help manage the sale of media rights in the country, as well as entertainment firm Legends to support stadium partnerships and business opportunities. The league also works with the sports marketing agency Sportfive for international television and digital distribution. Octagon does, of coursepreviously worked with the NWSLabout media rights, sponsor pricing, branding and fan feedback.

Media rights and their proper assessment are a big question right now, not only for the NWSL, but also for women's soccer around the world. A good broadcast deal is key to greater financial stability, and Vandervort agreed that based on the conversations so far there is a hunger for more women's sports.

"We talk a lot in our industry about the emerging movement to commercialize sport and women's interests, but I can tell you from the inside, having these conversations, it's absolutely true," she said.


"I think we're looking at it from a business point of view, from a fan point of view, fan engagement is off the charts. Decades of work have gotten us to where we are today, and great people have invested their lives in this journey along the way. And I'm glad we now have these groups of owners who are willing to invest at the level they are willing to invest. From building and improving the country's amazing stadiums to truly investing in the experience for both players and fans, I think it's been an amazing time in women's football."

That's what an NWSL spokesman said.athletic,"We welcome more opportunities for women to play professional soccer in the United States."

required reading

  • Women's minor league football looks at international investment and raises standards
  • USL Launches Division II Competition for Women 'Committed to Gender Equality'
  • In its inaugural season, the USL W League became a staple of American women's soccer.

(Photo: Erik Williams/USA Today)


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