This is an exciting year for women’s soccer, especially in the United States. While everyone awaits the Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer, it is also Year 3 of the National Women’s Soccer League.
For anyone who knows their professional women’s soccer history in America, Year 3 has an ominous ring to it. Year 3 was the final year of the first pro league, W.U.S.A. It was also the last year of the second pro league, W.P.S.
This year, we in the N.W.S.L. have reached the same moment. Yet this season, while obviously important, also faces the significant challenge of being intertwined with the timing of the World Cup.
It will be a year of challenges for the players and puzzles for the clubs. At F.C. Kansas City, we said goodbye last week to four teammates who will be representing the United States in the World Cup. All the national team players had joined their clubs for the first three games of the season, but now we — and the rest of the league’s teams — will continue on with our schedules for several months without them.
It is not uncommon for players and coaches to juggle the dual obligations of club and national team. This dichotomy is especially notable in World Cup years, and certainly more so during the short N.W.S.L. season, where it creates a fascinating dynamic. Coaches have had to essentially prepare for two seasons: one with their national team players, and one without them.
Moreover, everyone’s focus is divided. As a team, we feel a responsibility to support and prepare our teammates for the world stage. Every training session before they left, we were aware that while we are preparing to succeed as a club, we also were preparing those individuals for something more. Similarly, while those players care deeply about the success of their clubs, and each hopes to return to a team contending for the playoffs, their top priority in 2015 has to be reaching their peak this summer in Canada.
So as we pulled off our jerseys and unlaced our boots in the locker room after our last game, we were all aware of what was unfolding, and of what was at stake.
The success of the United States team has powerful implications for the future of N.W.S.L., and for American women’s soccer. There is the hope for the United States to be crowned world champions again. There is the chance for new stars to emerge internationally. And there is the opportunity for others to make a name for themselves as professionals in the absence of the national team players.
We are counting on each other to make it work. Together, our aim is to ensure that there will be a Year Four for our league, and a bright future in which it can continue to develop the women’s game.