Victory Tour Likely To Delay USWNT Members' Return To NWSL
Fans that want to continue to watch their favorite USWNT players compete in the NWSL "might be in for a surprise over the next few months," as the players "aren’t expected to return to their NWSL teams in time for this weekend’s slate of matches," according to Jamie Goldberg of the Portland OREGONIAN. While the players "could be back in time for games next week, U.S. Soccer announced a five-game victory tour following the World Cup win, which will pull the U.S. players away from their NWSL teams." This comes after the league made "two big announcements" in deals with Budweiser and ESPN that "could help the league gain greater visibility at a time when interest in women’s soccer is at its highest." Former USWNT D Meghan Klingenberg said the victory tour games are simply a "way for the players to get paid." She added, "If I’m one of those national team players, I want to play in those games because I want to get paid what I’m worth." Goldberg notes while the NWSL is "still striving to build support and raise standards, the impact of having a sustained women’s professional league in the U.S. has been evident." The NWSL "helped the U.S. players reach" their current heights. But it "remains to be seen whether their success on the world stage will be a catalyst for increased investment and support for the NWSL this time around" (Portland OREGONIAN, 7/11).
SUPPORT STILL NEEDED: USWNT F Alex Morgan thanked ESPN for reaching their new deal with the NWSL during her acceptance speech for the Best Female Athlete ESPY last night. Morgan said, "We obviously enjoy the success on the biggest stage right now. But when the World Cup is behind us, it is the professional league that we need to continually lift up and grow” (“ESPY Awards,” ABC, 7/10). SI's Grant Wahl noted the NWSL is "not guaranteed to exist next year." While calling the Budweiser deal "promising," Wahl added, "Talking to agents who represent these U.S. players, they're like, 'We aren't sure we have a league next year.'" Wahl: "NWSL just needs to find a way, not just to survive, but to get owners in this league who are legit. They've got some who are, and they're a little sketchy in some other markets." All 23 members of the USWNT play in the NWSL, and Wahl said, "They want to see this league succeed, so they're going to be invested in that." Wahl: "We'll see if fans are, we'll see if sponsors are" ("SI Now," SI.com, 7/10).
PLAYING THE LONG GAME: In Indianapolis, Mickey Shuey notes the ownership group of the NASL Indy Eleven "hopes to add a franchise" in the NWSL, but it "wouldn't be before" the men's club moves into a new venue. Indy Eleven CEO Greg Stremlaw: "We’ve had interest in seeing a women’s professional team here since the Eleven were founded. That interest has continued with open dialogues with the NWSL." Shuey notes the success of the USWNT both this year and in '15 has "reaffirmed the franchise’s desire to bring a women’s pro soccer team to Indianapolis," but chances are "slim in the short term." NWSL President Amanda Curry has said that the league "won’t consider expansion plans again" until at least '20, and there are "several cities looking to add franchises thought to be higher up the ladder than Indianapolis." Indy Eleven as a result is looking to '22 or beyond, "giving ownership time to focus on Eleven Park," a $150M stadium announced in January that could also host "any future women’s program" (IBJ.com, 7/11).