NWSL Entertaining Expansion Bids

But the league has significant problems.

It is deadline day for investors to submit their bids for a National Women’s Soccer League expansion franchise. The league anticipates adding two franchises that would start play in the 2024 or 2025 season. NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman thinks somewhere between five and 10 groups will meet the deadline although Berman claimed that as many as 82 groups are interested in getting a NWSL franchise. But expansion is not really the major issue facing Berman and the league. In October, a 319-page report, commissioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation and led by the former United States Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, found evidence of systemic emotional abuse and sexual misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League spanning across multiple teams and coaches. Yates said she found NWSL abuse is “rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer, beginning in youth leagues, that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players.”

Earlier this week, a group of 43 House of Representatives lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Soccer Federation asking the group to comply with an ongoing investigation into a culture of abuse in the women’s soccer league and reform its practices and rules to create a safer environment. Mana Shim, a former National Women’s Soccer League and the U.S. under-23 national team player, is the chair of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s taskforce to prevent the abuse and harassment of women that was found to be systemic in the sport. The NWSL has a public perception problem as five of 10 league coaches in 2021 were fired or stepped down amid allegations of misconduct, and Commissioner Lisa Baird resigned. Meanwhile the league in doing due diligence in identifying, cities and owners in an attempt to broaden the league’s footprint. Despite the allegations people want to buy into the NWSL.

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North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville FC players pause and gather at midfield during the first half of an NWSL soccer match in Cary, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)