There will be no immediate NWSL expansion, as league managing director Amanda Duffy recently indicated that the circuit will not rush that process.
The NWSL began play in 2013 with eight teams, and has lasted longer than any previous professional women’s soccer league in the United States. After reaching a high of 10 teams for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the NWSL fielded nine teams in 2018 and will compete with the same number in 2019.
There are no plans to add another club for the coming season, but Duffy indicates that expansion remains on the NWSL’s radar. The 2020 season could see NWSL expansion, but Duffy emphasized that the league would rather take its time and focus on adding more quality teams to the mix than rush the process. More from Pro Soccer USA:
The NWSL has survived longer than any other professional women’s soccer league in the United States, in part, because of how it handles that growth — slow and steady. There is a plan for expansion, but anyone who expected new teams to join the league immediately will have to wait. Duffy said the timeline for expansion is 2020.
When asked if there’s a possibility new teams join the league this year, Duffy said, “In 2019? Our efforts are really focused on 2020. We feel like the timeline for any group that’s going to launch a team, launch a new brand, even if it’s within an existing professional organization, the time that it takes to get all the pieces in place and to do it right and to build up to that inaugural season — we’re planning and preparing for expansion to be in 2020 right now.”
Sports landscapes constantly change and evolve, and Duffy said conversations are ongoing about the league’s growth. NWSL board meetings took place this week in Chicago during the United Soccer Coaches annual convention, which also includes Thursday’s NWSL draft.
But Duffy was firm about focusing on the league’s quality rather speed of growth. Ahead of the 2018 season, the league went through what Duffy called a “turbulent” period. The Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City both ceased operations, and the Utah Royals joined the league. During the year, reports of subpar conditions circulated about New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.
The addition of Utah Royals FC was certainly a highlight for the NWSL last year, as the club debuted to strong attendance numbers at Rio Tinto Stadium and should be on solid footing going forward. Growth from its existing teams in terms of attendance and quality of facilities will also be going to the NWSL’s future, making them other areas to watch in addition to expansion. Still, while it might not necessarily be an expedited process, the NWSL appears intent on trying to find suitable additions that can help grow the league’s number teams while raising its profile as a whole.
Image courtesy Orlando Pride.