An article over at Grantland explores what’s next for women’s soccer in the U.S. and offers a lot more questions than answers. After a fantastic Olympics with wonderful matches full of high quality soccer and stands full of fans (85,000 packed Wembley for the final), the women of the USWNT came home with nowhere to play.
Sure the USWNT is going on tour like the rock stars that they are. But beyond those exhibition matches there’s not much on the horizon for a team that has three more years before the next Women’s World Cup. When the WPS folded some players decided to take the year off from playing on a club team, the National Team took up some of the slack with more training camp and a few more games against other countries.
Now that the Olympics are over the bigwigs from several leagues met to discuss what to do next. The W-League and the WPSL was not on the same level at the WPS. Teams were semi-pro, a mix of college players and professionals. The budgets were minuscule and the players complained of having to play games on back to back days which is unheard of at the elite level.
The problem, as always, is money. The leagues, WUSA and WPS, lost tons of money and had a model that was unsustainable. It has taken the men’s Major League Soccer fifteen years to become profitable so the idea that a women’s league is going to make a buck any time soon is laughable. However, the leagues are trying to find a way to come up with a formula that will work so that the league has the time to grow into an MLS like success rather than crashing after only a few seasons.
In the meantime, the players are left wondering where to go. Some may go overseas to Europe or elsewhere where they can play and get paid to do it. This is a huge loss for the fans and for the USWNT which will have a much harder time finding a way to train together if everyone is several thousand miles away. It’s also a loss for players, like Lori Lindsey who didn’t make the team out of college but raised her level of play by playing for a professional team. The USWNT can’t afford to lose players who need a little more time to develop but don’t have the chance because there’s no post-graduation place to go.
So, if we want to keep the likes of Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe stateside we have to hope that the people in charge get it right. All we can do is show up, buy tickets and t-shirts and overpriced beer to show that this is important to have in this country. Otherwise you can kiss the ladies good-bye and only be able to see them for the big tournaments.
In the meantime the USWNT plays this Saturday, September 1 at 2:30 ET and the game will be broadcast on NBC.
What do you think the answer is for women’s soccer to find a foothold here? Would you support your local team?