Women’s pro soccer sees reason for optimism, 15 years on
14 April 2001. A crowd of 34,148 sees the first professional women’s soccer league game in the United States. Tennis legend Billie Jean King does the coin toss. A skydiver brings the game ball into Washington’s RFK Stadium. Singer/actress Joy Enriquez sings the national anthem, punctuated by another appearance from the skies – a bald Agata Ruiz De La Prada Shop On Line eagle, who swoops down to the field with a piercing cry.
16 April 2016. No eagle. The national anthem is a stock recording. The crowd stands at 3,578, barely 10% of the total from 15 years ago. RFK Stadium is busy with a DC United game that probably siphoned a few hundred people off that attendance count. We’re at the low-key Maryland SoccerPlex, fighting for parking spaces with hordes of youth soccer and basketball parents playing on the courts and fields nearby.
And yet, among the players, coaches and fans at the Washington Spirit’s opener against the Boston Breakers, optimism reigns.
When the Spirit and Breakers kicked off, professional women’s soccer reached a new milestone – the fourth consecutive year of a league’s existence. The WUSA, which kicked off in 2001 with such fanfare, went out of business after three seasons. So did WPS, which scaled back expectations but still couldn’t turn the corner after three years. With its kickoff Saturday night, the NWSL set a new longevity record.
Women’s soccer at the SoccerPlex is not a curiosity. It’s familiar. When the WUSA collapsed, the Washington Freedom kept an organization intact and moved out to the exurban facility to play exhibitions and amateur games until the next pro league formed. When the Freedom moved away in 2010, DC United Women moved in, It’s drawing youth teams that sit on team benches for warmups, and it’s drawing adults who cheer in supporters groups or hang out in the beer garden behind one goal.
And that’s progress in the eyes of people like Jim Gabarra, the only head coach the Freedom had in any incarnation and now, after a few years away with New Jersey team Sky Blue, the Spirit’s new coach.
“It’s great because it’s another chapter,” Gabarra said at a media day the week before the opening game. “We’re going to Authentic Prada Fairy Bag For Sale a place we’ve never gone in our game – we’ve got 10 teams, and we’re going Authentic Prada Leather Handbag into our fourth season. Across the board, it’s talk about optimism and growth and expansion – higher salaries, more opportunities. In the middle of our down period, it was talk about, ‘Let’s make sure we don’t lose another team because the whole league will fold.’
“There’s none of that talk now. That far outweighs having an eagle at your opening game.”
Scotsman Tom Sermanni was also at that 2001 opener as an assistant coach for the Bay Area CyberRays. After stints coaching the national teams of Australia and the USA, he’s the head coach of the league’s 10th team, the Orlando Pride.
“(The 2001 game) was an amazing occasion, amazing buildup,” Sermanni said in a league conference call. “The difference between that and our current league is that our league has been started much more conservatively, which gives us a firm foundation.”
The NWSL still has plenty of progress to make. Games are on YouTube, with productions of wildly variable quality, but rarely on television. Salaries for players outside the US or Canadian national teams have inched upward over four years to a range from $7,200 to $39,700.
The league’s shoestring budgets Alex Pradas Quiles show up in the strangest ways. Saturday night, FC Kansas City put out a picture of the team’s 2015 championship rings. “NWSL” was misspelled.
While the US women’s team argues over win bonuses and an as-yet-undefined “equal pay,” NWSL players just outside the national team pool scrounge to make a living wage, usually needing a host family and maybe a second job. The Memorandum of Understanding at the centerpiece of the team’s dispute with US Soccer all but assures that US national players will be paid more than others for league play – on top of their national team salaries.
The US women’s soccer pay dispute: a tangled web with no easy answers Read more
And the agreement has other limitations that have calcified the women’s national team pool, even as non-national team players routinely displace their more famous counterparts for league awards. The Spirit’s Crystal Dunn, in the national team pool but omitted from the World Cup roster, took MVP honors in 2015. Portland’s Michelle Betos was named the league’s top goalkeeper ahead of the players who made the rosters for the USA and Canada. In 2014, household names such as Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd were named to the Best Prada Outlet In Milan NWSL’s second XI.
But such details are lost in the “equal pay” argument. For better but much more often for worse, much of the U.S. mainstream media treats soccer – especially women’s soccer – as something that happens once or twice every four years. The “equal pay” mantra gets traction. The need to build something sustainable between World Cups has not.
Still replica prada backpacks, the quality of play is sound, even if the NWSL can’t afford to buy up most of the world’s stars the way Amazon Uk Prada Bags the WUSA did in the days before European women’s leagues could pay decent wages. Gabarra smiled Saturday night in comparing the results from 2001 to 2016 – in each case, a messy 1-0 win for the home team. But the goal was better this time – instead of a soft penalty kick, well-traveled veteran Joanna Lohman opened the season’s scoring with a bicycle kick off Dunn’s deflected cross.
“There was good stuff, but a little bit of panic at times,” Gabarra said. “It’s just the frantic nature of the Authentic Prada Shoes Outlet first game.”
And they can take heart from the growth of Major League Soccer, the men’s league that was paying “developmental players” a paltry $11,700 salary just 10 years ago. Today, even as “reserve” player makes at least $51,500.
With low pay and tough games dominated by wily veterans, the NWSL is a league in which veterans prey on the young. And yet, the opportunity isn’t lost on players like Cali Farquharson, who made her pro debut Saturday for the Spirit.
“I’m still shaking,” she said through nervous laughter and tears. “As a kid, you always dream about being a professional soccer player. And the day has finally arrived where I could step out on the field and say I’m playing professionally.”
The Spirit did line up one special guest to mark the occasion of its fourth season opener. Briana Scurry, the winning goalkeeper in the 1999 Women’s World Cup and two Olympic finals, spoke briefly to the fans before kickoff.
Scurry played in the two previous pro leagues. The occasion of the fourth season was Are Prada Nylon Bags Worth The Money not lost on here. “All of you are now part of history,” she said.
And they hope to be a part of the future as well.