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May 17, 2023 — Does women’s soccer need a second professional American league?

In the last day, details emerged about the United Soccer Leagues’ proposed Women’s Super League, a 12-team professional Division I league which will be on the American soccer pyramid alongside the current National Women’s Soccer League.

Amongst the details are the location of eight of the franchises, including, interestingly, a team in Washington, D.C. which will be run by D.C. United. It is reminiscent of the time when there was a D.C. United Women team in the USL, which was between 2011 and 2012.

Interestingly, D.C. United Women became the Washington Spirit in the NWSL, It makes you wonder if the current Spirit, now with a working arrangement with Olympic Lyonnais Feminin, may be searching out a new home.

Now, the USL has been in the business of women’s soccer for the better part of four decades. When the league was known as the United States Interregional Soccer League, a group of women’s amateur teams were formed as a test league, one which ended when a team from Sacramento won the postseason tournament.

For years, the USISL’s W-League was a good place to watch the women’s game. Members of the U.S. women’s national team like Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm were linked with teams and, at one juncture, U.S. Soccer bought a franchise in Alabama and had the reserves from the 1996 Olympic Team playing for that side.

These days, the USL’s W-League has 65 teams spread across the U.S. with each team having amateur players. As recently as 2001, there were two divisions within the W-League, with the W-2 league being the strictly amateur league featuring college and some high-school players, but with the W-1 having players who were aiming for playing in the WUSA, which started in 2001.

Since 2001, however, the WUSA, WPS, and the NWSL have taken a lot of focus off the USL’s efforts to promote women’s soccer.

I find it interesting, however, that the U.S. Soccer Federation decided to sanction the new league as a co-equal of the NWSL, even as the latter has enjoyed record ratings and a national television contract which gives the league more visibility than Major League Soccer.

I’ll be interested to see whether this league is the start of a golden age in women’s soccer or whether it will set off a civil war for players, fans, and dollars.

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