Jeff CarlisleAmerican football reporter4 minutes to read
The USL Super League has officially announced the first eight markets that will participate in the inaugural season set to begin in August 2024.
The markets that make up the junior women’s league are: Charlotte, NC, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tex., Lexington, Ky., Phoenix, Ariz., Spokane, Wash., Tampa Bay, Fla., Tucson, Ariz., and Washington, D.C. More may be added in the coming weeks.
The USL Super League also aims for the USL’s Division I status, placing it on par with the National Women’s Soccer League.
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For Premier League president Amanda Vandervoort, creating the league is about meeting demand. She said that although there are over 100 professional men’s teams in the United States, there are only 12 such teams on the women’s side, leaving plenty of room for the two women’s leagues to co-exist.
“You have 12 women’s professional teams in this country, amazing cities, fans and players who want to be part of this movement for women’s professional sports,” Vandervoort told ESPN. “I think that created the opportunity that the Premier League now has. We’re ready and we’re excited to create that platform for all of these people.”
The USL already operates the W League, a pre-professional women’s league that began in 2022 and includes 65 teams. The plan is for players from this league to get them into the Premier League.
“What we’re trying to do is connect talent with opportunity at all stages of the player’s journey,” said Vandervoort. “So that infrastructure is important, but Super League teams are first-class professional teams that stand on their own.”
Acquiring a Division One sanction is a key pillar of the Premier League’s plans in that it will open the door to more sponsorship, media coverage and investment.
Attaining Division I status requires approval by the USSF Board of Directors, which means meeting USSF’s Pro League (PLS) standards.
Among the requirements of the women’s outdoor league is that in the league’s first year there must be at least eight teams in the league spread across at least two time zones. At least 75% of the league’s teams must play in metropolitan markets of at least 750,000 people, and all league stadiums must have a minimum seating capacity of 5,000.
Each collective ownership group must demonstrate the financial ability to operate the team for three years, with the lead owner having an individual net worth of $15 million, while the individual ownership group of the entire ownership group must be at least $25 million.
Enforcement of the PLS Act by the USSF has been a point of contention in the past. The now-defunct North American Soccer League is suing the USAFL, arguing that the association, among other things, altered the PLS in order to prevent the NASL from gaining Division I status — and sometimes even Division II status — so it wouldn’t happen. that. Compete with the soccer league.
In this case, the USL Super League would find itself competing against the NWSL in markets, investment, sponsorship dollars, and players. There’s also the fact that NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman is on the USSF Board of Directors. But Vandervoort expressed confidence that the MLS would have the NFL’s blessing.
“When we first started this process, we already had minimum standards for stadium capacity, net ownership and market size,” said Vandervoort. “All the things that are included in the pro league standards and the standards that we set are Division I standards on the women’s side. So in conversation with our owners and collaborating across the entire group, we’re excited that we qualify for those standards. We’re confident we’ll meet those standards and we’re excited to receive Division I sanctions. “.
Another feature of the league is its adherence to the international calendar, as the season begins in August, rests during the winter months and ends in June, with a focus on freeing players for international obligations.
“We think a lot about that player’s experience, what it’s like to compete internationally and make sure we’re facilitating and understanding the challenges out there,” she said.
USL also announced its partnership with global consulting firm Octagon to manage its media rights sales operation, while Legends, a global venue experience company, will manage commercial interests for the USL Super League, including national sponsorship sales and stadium commercial opportunities. It should be noted that Legends is majority owned by investment firm Sixth Street, which just acquired an NWSL expansion team in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Given that the league has yet to kick the ball over, some details still need to be worked out. Vandervoort declined to say what expansion fee each team would pay, nor did it say how long the winter break would be. Asked if the league would implement a salary cap on players, Vandervoort said, “It is not our intention to have a salary cap.”
Five more markets – Indianapolis, Indiana, Chattanooga, Tenn. Jacksonville, Florida, and Madison, Wisconsin. and Oakland, Calif. – slated to join the league in 2025 if their stadium projects come to fruition.
“I think there’s a lot of potential for the women’s game in the United States,” said Lindsey Barrens, president of the Oakland Roots and A-League A-League, the Oakland Soul, which aims to join the US Super League. “There is latent fan interest, latent player talent. It’s really time to give women the opportunity to realize that potential. Now I’m really excited.”
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