USL W-League (1995–2015)
|Number of teams||8|
|Level on pyramid||2|
|Last champions||Washington Spirit Reserves|
|Most championships||Los Angeles Blues|
The USL W-League was a North American amateur women's soccer developmental organization. The league was a semi-professional, open league, giving college players the opportunity to play alongside established international players while maintaining their collegiate eligibility. The league was administered by the United Soccer Leagues system (the USL), which also oversees the men's United Soccer League and Premier Development League. The W-League announced on November 6, 2015 that the league will cease operation ahead of 2016 season.
After the popularity of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, though, USL began considerations for a new professional women's league; this effort eventually returned to the re-establishing of the league as the USL W League.
The W-League's inaugural season was in 1995. Originally called the United States Interregional Women's League, it later changed its name to the W-League. Although at its inception some of the league's franchises were barely above amateur level, it provided a professional outlet for many of the top female soccer players in the country. With professionals driving the level of play, the league made a very strong debut performance.
From 1995 through the 1997 season the W-League was a single tier format (all teams at the same division). This changed before the 1998 season when the W-League became a two tier league. The top tier/division was called W-1 and lower division, W-2. This division was in effect through the 2001 season – the first year of the new US Women's first division league WUSA. The W-League returned to a single tier format in the 2002 season.
The W-League grew to a maximum of 41 teams for the 2008 season, but then began contracting rapidly. By the time the league suspended operations in 2015, there were three, six-team conferences. Of those 18 teams, eight went on to found United Women's Soccer (though the two Canadian teams were denied entry) and another seven joined the WPSL
The revival of the W-League as the USL W League was announced on June 8, 2021, with eight founding teams due to begin play in 2022, none of which were revivals of teams from the original iteration of the W-League. Instead, many were associate with USL League One organizations.
127 unique teams participated in the W-League over the course of its history. Fifteen still existed (at varying levels of activity) as of 2019.
W-League member(alt.name/merger†) WUSA / WPS / NWSL WPSL-WLS-UWS inactive / exhibition / other (*) indicates championship
For 1998 through 2001 the W-League was divided into two divisions: W-1 (the top division) W-2 (the lower division). The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of titles a club has won if they have won multiple titles. Click on year for W-League season summaries.
- 2015 Washington Spirit Reserves 2–1 Colorado Pride
- 2014 Los Angeles Blues (4) 6–1 Washington Spirit Reserves
- 2013 Pali Blues (3) 1–0 Laval Comets
- 2012 Ottawa Fury Women 1–1 (4–3 PSO) Pali Blues
- 2011 Atlanta Silverbacks Women 6–1 Ottawa Fury Women
- 2010 Buffalo Flash 3–1 Vancouver Whitecaps Women
- 2009 Pali Blues (2) 2–1 Washington Freedom Reserves
- 2008 Pali Blues 2–1 FC Indiana
- 2007 Washington Freedom 3–1 Atlanta Silverbacks Women
- 2006 Vancouver Whitecaps Women (2) 3–0 Ottawa Fury Women
- 2005 New Jersey Wildcats 3–0 Ottawa Fury Women
- 2004 Vancouver Whitecaps Women 0–0 (4–2 PSO) New Jersey Wildcats
- 2003 Hampton Roads Piranhas 1–0 Chicago Cobras
- 2002 Boston Renegades (2) 3–0 Charlotte Lady Eagles
- 1997 Long Island Lady Riders (2) 2–1 Chicago Cobras (OT)
- 1996 Maryland Pride 3–0 Dallas Lightning
- 1995 Long Island Lady Riders 3–0 Southern California Nitemares
- Jenna Pel, Onwards and Upwards: A Conversation With the W-League's Melanie Fitzgerald Part 1, http://www.allwhitekit.com/?p=746, May 6, 2010
- Kassouf, Jeff (November 6, 2015). "USL W-League, once top flight, folds after 21 seasons". The Equalizer. Archived from the original on March 14, 2020. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
From its formation in 1995 until the start of the Women's United Soccer Association — the first U.S. professional league — in 2001, the USL W-League was the top flight of soccer in the United States. It returned to that status upon the folding of the WUSA following the 2003 season, and remained the top flight — all as a semi-professional league — until Women's Professional Soccer began in 2009.
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- "United Soccer Leagues (USL)". Archived from the original on 8 September 2015.
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- "NEW TEAMS, NEW CITIES, NEW STATES".
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- http://homepages.sover.net/~spectrum/usl-w.html[bare URL]