Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Nov. 9, 2015 — The W-League, 1995-2015

Little did anyone realize that, when a group of women’s amateur soccer teams formed a league in the northeast United States, that it would come to form an important backbone of the sport nationwide.

Over the course of two decades, the United Soccer Leagues’ W-League provided opportunities for women nationwide to test their mettle in a summer league.

In addition, it was an important fallback in the absence of a USSF Division I professional league. In the years before the WUSA, and in the years between women’s pro leagues, the W-League was the go-to place for women’s national team players. Mia Hamm, for example, was signed by the Raleigh Wings. Kristine Lilly played for the Delaware Genies. And during the 1996 season, the alternate members of the U.S. Olympic team were parked with the Alabama Angels franchise in case there was an injury with the main team. Heather O’Reilly was the talisman for the New Jersey Wildcats’ 2005 championship run after the folding of the WUSA. Becky Sauerbrunn, late of the 2015 Women’s World Cup team, cut her teeth with D.C. United Women in the years before there was a National Women’s Soccer League.

Late last week, it was announced that the W-League would be closing up shop. The W-League has been feeling all sorts of economic pressures over the last few seasons, not the least of which is the presence of other domestic competitions. In 1997, the Western Division of the W-League broke away and formed the Women’s Premier Soccer League, which now has 82 teams, including teams sponsored by Real Salt Lake, the Boston Breakers, and Tottenham Hotspur.

In a strange case of history repeating itself, it was rumored that the Western Division of the W-League was again breaking away to join the WPSL’s Pacific Conference, hastening the W-League’s demise.

But the biggest economic pressure being brought to bear on the W-League is competition from women’s pro and pro-am leagues that have sprung up around the world. Players who are on the fringes of making an NWSL franchise are now able to ply their trade in almost every European country; top men’s professional clubs like Barcelona, Chelsea, Wolfsburg, and Paris-Saint Germain now have women’s teams.

The W-League exits the stage now, and with it, a rich history with prominent names intermixed with local heroes and people you may have never heard of. While it appears that there will be a pro-am division in the United States going forward, with the WPSL apparently set to have nearly 100 teams coast-to-coast next summer, the question is whether there will be enough players for it to remain at a reasonably high standard.


No comments yet»

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: