By Val Servino–
Women’s soccer fans took a collective sigh of relief on Nov. 21, when U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced news of a new women’s league. The eight-team league, then nameless, was stated to begin its season as of April 2013, with financial support from the U.S. Soccer Federation, as well as its Canadian and Mexican counterparts. The international governing bodies have each committed at least 16 players to the league.
The women’s game has garnered much support through the success of the U.S. Women’s National Team, and understandably so. The team has been invited to all five Olympics in which women’s soccer was played, achieving gold in four and one silver. Therefore, it is fitting that the news of the women’s soccer league’s name and its logos were announced during the halftime report of an international friendly, played between the United States and the People’s Republic of China on Dec. 15. The name was reported as the National Women’s Soccer League, or NWSL, with its eight founding clubs: the Boston Breakers, Western New York Flash, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit, Portland Thorns, Seattle Reign, Chicago Red Stars and FC Kansas City.
On Friday, Jan. 11, the league allocated the 55 international players to their respective teams.
The Western New York Flash was the only team to receive only two American internationals during the allocation, though they did acquire Rochester-native Abby Wambach.
“The first criteria was the preference of the players, and Abby is very fond of her hometown,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati of the 32-year old forward. “I don’t need to say much more than that. She loves where she grew up, loves playing there and is very much looking forward to going back there. The very strong preference from the team and the player, in this case, made that one easy.”
Some have posed concerns about the Portland Thorns monopolizing the league with powerhouse forwards Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair up top. Concerns, however, are long delayed. The storied pair were teammates in the defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league, along with Brazilian star Marta, on the now renewed Western New York Flash.
The Washington Spirit was the only team not to receive a player who earned minutes in the London Olympics. Thirty-two year old midfielder Lori Lindsey was an alternate for the games. Hometown player and right-back Ali Krieger, 28, did not play due to a knee injury. She continued training with her former club, 1.FFC Frankfurt, in the German Frauen-Bundesliga. Ashlyn Harris, 27, one of five American goalkeepers, was also not on the roster in the London Olympics. Before the formation of the NWSL, she played for FCR 2001 Duisburg against her new Spirit teammate, Ali Krieger.
The Chicago Red Stars were given the first pick when the NWSL’s Inaugural College Draft took place in Indianapolis on the morning of Jan. 18. With their pick, they took Zakiya Bywaters, a 5’1” forward out of UCLA. Following her was Tiffany McCarty from Florida State to the Washington Spirit; Boston College’s Kristie Mewis to FC Kansas City; Lindsi Lisonbee-Cutshall of BYU to Sky Blue FC; Casey Short of Florida State went to the Boston Breakers; goalkeeper Adrianna Franch from Oklahoma State to Western New York; from Penn State Christine Narin went to the Reign; and defender Kathryn Williamson went to the Portland Thorns from Florida.
Williamson was among one of Florida’s four draftees; their program has the most players in the newly formed league. All first round draft picks had national team experience below the full team. The teams, rosters fresh, will begin play in the spring.
Photo courtesy of soccerbyives.net