National Women's Soccer League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the former Australian league, see Women's National Soccer League.
National Women's Soccer League
NWSL logo.svg
Country United States
Confederation CONCACAF (North America)
Founded 2012
Number of teams 9
Level on pyramid 1
Current champions FC Kansas City (2nd title)
Current NWSL Shield Seattle Reign FC (2nd shield)
Most championships FC Kansas City (2 titles)
Most NWSL Shields Seattle Reign FC (2 shields)
2015 NWSL season

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is a professional women's soccer league, run by the United States Soccer Federation. At the top of the United States league system, it is the country's primary competition for the sport. The NWSL was established in 2012 as a successor to Women's Professional Soccer (2007–2012). The league began play in 2013 with eight teams; four of which were former members of Women's Professional Soccer.[1][2][3]

Since the league's inaugural 2013 season, a total of two clubs have claimed the NWSL Shield and two clubs have been crowned NWSL Champions. The current shield winner is Seattle Reign FC, who finished first in the 2015 season. The current champion is FC Kansas City, who won the 2014 NWSL Playoffs, and defended their championship in the 2015 NWSL Playoffs.

Competition format[edit]

The NWSL season runs from April–August with each team scheduled for 24 regular season games, 12 each of home and road.[4] For the 2015 season: 20 games, 10 each of home and road, were scheduled, because of the FIFA Women's World Cup. At the end of the regular season, the team with the highest point total is awarded the regular season title. The four clubs with the most points from the regular season standings qualify for the NWSL playoffs, which consist of two semifinal single knockout matches (1 seed plays 4; 2 seed plays 3), with the winner of each semifinal advancing to the championship final hosted by the team with most regular season points.[5]



After Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) officially folded in April 2012, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced a roundtable for discussion of the future of women's professional soccer in the United States. The meeting, which included representatives from USSF, WPS teams, the W-League, and the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), was held in June and resulted in the planning of a new league set to launch in 2013 with 12–16 teams, taking from each of the three leagues. Compared to WPS, the teams would have a relatively low salary cap of $500,000,[6] though this was later lowered to $200,000.[7]

NWSL Major Trophy Winners
Season NWSL Champions
Play-off winners
NWSL Shield
Regular season winners
2013 Portland Thorns FC Western New York Flash
2014 FC Kansas City Seattle Reign FC
2015 FC Kansas City Seattle Reign FC

In November 2012, it was announced that there would be eight teams in a new women's professional soccer league that was yet to be named at the time of the announcement, subsidized by the USSF, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). The three federations would pay for the salaries of their national team players (24 from the US, 16 from Canada, and 12 to 16 from Mexico) to aid the teams in creating world-class rosters while staying under the salary cap. The players would be distributed evenly (as possible) among the eight teams in an allocation process. USSF would run the league offices and set the schedule.[8]

On November 29, 2012, it was announced that Cheryl Bailey had been named Executive Director in the new league. Bailey had previously served as General Manager of the United States women's national soccer team from 2007 to 2011, which included leading the support staff for the U.S. team during the 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cups as well as the 2008 Summer Olympics. During her tenure with the women's national team, she was in charge of all areas of administration including interfacing with clubs, team travel, payroll, and working with FIFA, CONCACAF, and other federations.[9]

Early years[edit]

The first NWSL game was held on April 13, 2013, as the MLS-backed Portland Thorns visited FC Kansas City, playing to a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 6,784 fans at Shawnee Mission District Stadium. Renae Cuellar scored the first goal in league history. [10][11] Outside of Portland, average attendance was lower than that in the WPS years, with only Portland turning a profit in both of the first two seasons. Average attendance for the league overall dropped after the inaugural season, but only by a few percent, compared to the double-digit drops seen in WPS' and WUSA's sophomore seasons. Portland and Kansas City were the only two teams to qualify for the playoffs in both of the first two seasons and won one championship each, despite the emergence of the Seattle Reign in 2014 as a powerhouse, losing only twice during the regular season.

While most NWSL teams operate in the red, it is a fraction of the losses seen by WUSA teams, and NWSL has not folded any teams unlike WPS did. NWSL became the first professional women's league in the US to reach nine teams with the expansion of the MLS-backed Houston Dash in 2014; continued expansion interest, particularly from MLS teams, has continued.


Locations of teams for the 2014 National Women's Soccer League season.

Nine NWSL teams are divided amongst the west coast, east coast, and central regions of the United States. Each club is allowed a minimum of 18 players on their roster, with a maximum of 20 players allowed at any time during the season.[12] Originally, each team's roster includes up to three allocated American national team players, up to two allocated Mexico women's national team players, and up to two Canadian allocated national team players via the NWSL Player Allocation and subsequent trades.[13] In addition, each team has three spots available for international players.[14] The remaining roster spots must be filled by domestic players from the United States. Teams fill their rosters via a number of drafts and 4-6 discovery player signings.[12]

National Women's Soccer League
Team Stadium Capacity City Founded Joined NWSL
Boston Breakers Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium 4,000 Boston, Massachusetts 2008 2013
Chicago Red Stars Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex 3,000 Lisle, Illinois 2007 2013
FC Kansas City Swope Soccer Village[15] 3,200 Kansas City, Missouri 2012 2013
Houston Dash BBVA Compass Stadium 7,000[n 1][16] Houston, Texas 2013 2014
Portland Thorns FC Providence Park 20,438 Portland, Oregon 2012 2013
Seattle Reign FC Memorial Stadium 6,000[n 2] Seattle, Washington 2012 2013
Sky Blue FC Yurcak Field 5,000 Piscataway, New Jersey 2007 2013
Washington Spirit Maryland SoccerPlex 5,200 Boyds, Maryland 2012 2013
Western New York Flash Sahlen's Stadium 13,768 Rochester, New York 2008 2013
  1. ^ BBVA Compass Stadium has a capacity of slightly over 22,000, but seating is restricted to 7,000 for Dash games.
  2. ^ Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 12,000, but seating is restricted to 6,000 for Reign games.


Main article: NWSL expansion

Soon after launch, the league reportedly planned to expand to ten teams for 2014.[17] Potential candidates included groups not accepted as part of the original eight; groups from the Los Angeles area (joint effort from the LA Strikers and Pali Blues)[18] and from Hartford, Connecticut[19] were confirmed failed bids, as was one from the Seattle Sounders Women. There was speculation that the Vancouver Whitecaps Women could be logical candidates especially given the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada; however, the Whitecaps cancelled their women's program (except for one U-18 academy team) in December 2012.

During the inaugural season, there were rumors of expansion interest from MLS teams Toronto FC[20][21] and the New York Red Bulls,[22] as well as confirmed interest from WPSL side the Houston Aces.[23] NWSL team owners hinted that expansion for 2014 was not a question of "if" but "how many".[24][25] Despite this, it was announced during the playoffs that there would be no expansion for the league's second season,[26] though the Red Bulls and Sky Blue FC confirmed that they were in discussions for cooperation.[24][27]

During the first offseason, the Houston Dynamo added their name to the list of MLS teams interested in fielding a women's side, stating that they were "exploring the opportunity" of starting an NWSL side in 2014 or '15[28] and in 2013 they announced the Houston Dash with 2014 as their inaugural season.[29] By early December, NWSL approved a new team run by the Dynamo organization for expansion in 2014,[30] despite their earlier statement that there would be no expansion for the league's second season.

During the second offseason, expansion talk grew rapidly, with three established men's teams (Real Salt Lake of MLS, the Indy Eleven of NASL, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Pro) expressing interest in joining NWSL, as well as an unattached group from Atlanta. There was also rumored or suggested interest from three men's teams in California, though none of those groups have made official statements. Despite this interest, it was announced in late April 2015 that there would be no expansion for the 2016 season.

However, after the well-publicized success of the US Women's National soccer team, renewed interest in NWSL expansion caused reports from the owners' meeting that "a new team in 2016 has not been ruled out", with potential expansion news to be revealed within a month.[31] Commissioner Jeff Plush said that over a dozen interested groups had contacted the league in the post-World-Cup weeks; MLS team Orlando City SC was one of the first newly interested groups made public.[32][33][34]



As of 2014, the NWSL uses 9 stadiums. The highest attendance in the league's history occurred on August 3, 2014 at Providence Park when 19,123 people watched the Portland Thorns beat the Houston Dash in a regular season home match.[35]

Squad formation and salaries[edit]

In the NWSL teams officially receive a salary cap of US$265,000, with most players paid anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000 annually.[36] By comparison, the salary cap for teams in the top tier men's competition, Major League Soccer, is $3.5 million as of 2015.

Media coverage[edit]

The majority of league games are available for viewing via YouTube or via individual team's websites.[37] Of the eight teams in the league during the inaugural season, the Boston Breakers were the only team that charged a fee for access to their broadcasts.[38]

On April 18, 2013, NWSL signed a one-year agreement with Fox Sports to televise nine games of the NWSL’s inaugural season. As part of the agreement, Fox Sports 2 aired six regular-season matches and all three playoff matches, which included the two semifinal games on August 24 and 25, and the championship game on August 31.[39]

On May 28, 2014, NWSL signed a one-year agreement with ESPN to televise nine games of the 2014 NWSL Season. The games include 3 regular season games on ESPN2, as well as 3 regular season games live-streamed on ESPN3, available at and the WatchESPN app. Additionally, the two semi-final games on August 23 and 24, and the NWSL final on August 31 will all be aired live on ESPN2.[40]

On June 30, 2015, NWSL announced a one-year agreement with Fox Sports once more to cover ten games, including both semifinals and the final match. Six games will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and four games on Fox Sports GO.[citation needed]


Statistics below are for all-time regular season leaders.

Regular Season only
Rank Player Goals
1 United States Lauren Holiday 20
2 United States Abby Wambach 17
3 United States Sydney Leroux 16
Scotland Kim Little 16
United States Carli Lloyd 16
Canada Diana Matheson 16
7 Australia Samantha Kerr 15
Canada Christine Sinclair 15
9 United States Jessica McDonald 14
United States Alex Morgan 14
United States Heather O'Reilly 14

Last updated August 20, 2014

Regular Season only
Rank Player Assists
1 United States Lauren Holiday 16
2 United States Abby Wambach 12
3 United States Heather O'Reilly 11
4 United States Katy Freels 10
England Lianne Sanderson 10
6 Australia Samantha Kerr 9
Canada Diana Matheson 9
United States Alex Morgan 9
9 Wales Jess Fishlock 8
United States Kelley O'Hara 8
United States Erika Tymrak 8

NWSL awards[edit]

Main article: NWSL awards

Throughout the season, the league awards Player of the Week and Player of the Month awards to individual players, which are voted on by the media.[41][42] The league presents six annual awards for outstanding achievements voted on by owners, general managers, coaches, players and the media:[43]

  1. Golden Boot
  2. Rookie of the Year
  3. Goalkeeper of the Year
  4. Defender of the Year
  5. Coach of the Year
  6. Most Valuable Player (MVP)

In addition, the league names a NWSL Best XI team and NWSL Second XI team which are voted on by journalists, club officials and NWSL players.[44]

NWSL commissioners[edit]

Name Years
Cheryl Bailey (com.) 2012–2014[45]
Jeff Plush (com.) 2015[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WILL NWSL BE A SUCCESS? WELL ...". ESPN. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  2. ^ Whiteside, Kelly (November 21, 2012). "Women's pro soccer league to debut in U.S. next year". USA Today. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Seattle will have team in new women's professional league owned by Bill Predmore". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  4. ^ Bird, Liviu. "Merritt Paulson Confident Women’s Soccer Will Thrive in Portland". Equalizer Soccer. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  5. ^ "2014 Competition Rules and Regulations". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (June 29, 2012). "New women’s soccer league in the works for 2013 following meeting in Chicago". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  7. ^ Bell, Jack (April 13, 2013). "Another Attempt at Women’s Circuit, but With a Twist". New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ Lauletta, Dan (November 21, 2012). "Eight teams to start new women’s pro soccer league in 2013". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Cheryl Bailey Named Executive Director of New Women's Soccer League". US Soccer. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ "FC KANSAS CITY EARNS POINT IN LEAGUE OPENER". FC Kansas City. April 14, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Christine Sinclair penalty kick leads Thorns FC to 1-1 draw against FC Kansas City". Portland Thorns. April 13, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "2013 Roster Rules". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  13. ^ Graham Hays (January 11, 2013). "NWSL ALLOCATION EASIER SAID THAN DONE". ESPN. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  14. ^ "2014 Roster Rules - National Women's Soccer League". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  15. ^ Bell, Thad. "FC Kansas City and Sporting KC partner". SB Nation. Retrieved January 17, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Dynamo welcome NWSL expansion team: Houston Dash". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  17. ^ Giase, Frank (December 11, 2012). "On Soccer: New women's pro league has backing of U.S. Soccer Federation". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  18. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (November 20, 2012). "Established LA ownership excluded for geography". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  19. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (November 21, 2012). "Connecticut hopes for expansion bid, again". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  20. ^ Wahl, Grant (April 14, 2013). "GrantWahl: Hearing Vancouver and Toronto...". Twitter. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  21. ^ Rollins, Duane (May 15, 2013). "The View from the North: Silence speaking volumes in Toronto?". The Equalizer. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  22. ^ Wahl, Grant (April 26, 2013). "GrantWahl: Hearing more MLS teams are...". Twitter. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  23. ^ Coleman, Adam (July 17, 2013). "Cy Woods girls' soccer coach living dream as pro player". Cyprus Creek Mirror. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Giase, Frank (August 20, 2013). "On Soccer: National Women's Soccer League on solid ground". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  25. ^ "arnim whisler on expansion". August 4, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  26. ^ Murray, Caitlin (August 25, 2013). "Exclusive: Gulati confirms no NWSL expansion for 2014". Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  27. ^ Bell, Jack (August 23, 2013). "Sky Blue Looks Beyond N.W.S.L. Playoffs". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  28. ^ Lovell, Darrell (November 19, 2013). "Houston Dynamo looking into becoming second MLS team to own professional women's club". Houston Dynamo. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  29. ^ "Houston Dynamo launch Houston Dash as expansion member of National Women’s Soccer League". Houston Dynamo. December 12, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  30. ^ Goff, Steve (December 11, 2013). "NWSL expanding to Houston in 2014". Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  31. ^ "The Lowdown: World Cup bump engulfs NWSL". Equalizer Soccer. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  32. ^ "10 minutes with NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush on the Women's World Cup, role models, league expansion". July 8, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  33. ^ "Orlando City likely to add NWSL Women's team". Fansided. July 20, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  34. ^ "National Women's Soccer League set to capitalize on U.S.'s World Cup title". Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  35. ^ "NWSL MATCH RECAP - Portland Thorns FC 1, Houston Dash 0". Portland Timbers. August 3, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Fairer wages for women to dominate CBA talks". Retrieved July 14, 2015. 
  37. ^ "National Women's Soccer League". YouTube. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  38. ^ Murray, Caitlin (August 14, 2013). "Assessing Year 1, future of NWSL livestreams". Equalizer Soccer. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  39. ^ "NWSL, FSMG ANNOUNCE NATIONAL TV AGREEMENT - National Women's Soccer League". Retrieved April 28, 2013. 
  40. ^ "NWSL AND ESPN ANNOUNCE NATIONAL BROADCAST AGREEMENT". May 28, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  41. ^ "Player of the Week: Jen Hoy". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  42. ^ "August's Best: Monica Ocampo". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  43. ^ "NWSL ANNOUNCES 2013 AWARDS". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  44. ^ "NWSL BEST XI". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  45. ^ "NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey to step down". November 18, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Jeff Plush is new commissioner of women's soccer league". January 6, 2015. 

External links[edit]