Ahead of the 2017 NWSL Championship between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage in Orlando this weekend, the de facto head of the NWSL, Amanda Duffy, spoke to the league’s website about the state of the league.
In a long, long article touching on many different subjects related to NWSL, Duffy, who is not the commissioner of the league but is effectively running things after the last commissioner Jeff Plush resigned just before the start of the season, spoke about a topic we have been following very closely for years: The prospect of NWSL expansion into Southern California.
Unfortunately for those of us eager to bring a team here, Duffy effectively confirmed Richard Farley’s recent reporting, that expansion is highly unlikely to happen for the 2018 season.
The money quote is this: “In 2018, we don’t anticipate any expansion.”
Aside from that, Duffy does offer some explanation of the thinking behind not proceeding with expansion, something that Plush indicated was right around the corner before he left the league.
When I got here, nine months ago, ten months ago, there were some opportunities that were being discussed that had gone back into last year and looking at 2018, and it felt like there was a little bit of a rush and push to do that just for the sake of having that. There’s some really good expansion opportunities and expansion markets and prospects that the league is talking to. We’re in a great position though, because it’s not required. We’re not in a situation where we only make it to year six if there’s expansion. It just gives us a better opportunity to really have the right conversations with the right ownership groups, so that any new ownership that comes in, any team that comes in, they’re coming in at the top. They’re coming in to enhance what we’re doing and build the league and grow the league.
Ok, so now what? Duffy does suggest a timeline: “We have very good, very positive conversations with all the ownerships that have been speculated about and mentioned in the past with future expansion, potentially as soon as 2019.”
And if you’re wondering if the current leadership remains interested in Los Angeles, Duffy was specifically asked about NWSL expansion prospects for LA and New York City (I’ve added the emphasis in the quote):
Those are markets that have existing professional soccer organizations that do very well. In LA, there are now two for the MLS teams at least, and other men’s professional teams in the surrounding area. Same goes for New York. With LAFC coming into that market, I certainly think they’re going to do everything right and everything well, and the LA Galaxy are a proven, historical team in that market too. They’re great markets, and there’s proven success for professional soccer there. We’re going to look at the markets: does it make sense regionally and geographically with the teams that we do have? And it’s going to be about having the right ownership before we go into any market that we’re going expand in. Is the team set up for success with the right stadium, the right facilities, the right resources, financially, in a front office, that allow a training facility, that allow the women’s game to thrive and to have everything it really takes to operate at a professional level.
Allow me to speculate here for a moment. I think the fact that Los Angeles Football Club and the Galaxy are name-checked is a subtle hint that both teams remain interested in NWSL expansion. While I’ve speculated that the Galaxy may be indicating public interest in NWSL as much as a proxy move against LAFC than anything else, given AEG’s previous experience running a successful professional women’s team for two seasons before abruptly giving up, perhaps they are more serious this time around. And if that is the case, then the presumption that LAFC are the main candidate for local NWSL expansion may be incorrect, and they may have to really compete for the right to get an NWSL team.
Duffy also talks a bit about the reported interest of Catalan giants FC Barcelona setting up an NWSL team, but it effectively boils down to “We’ll see what happens” with no specifics regarding a rumored California location for that team.
So, the writing was on the wall for quite a while about no NWSL expansion for 2018, considering we’re in October and nothing has been announced. Duffy didn’t say expansion was definitely not happening, but it’s pretty well implied here that it’s 99.9999999999% not happening next year.
So, we’ll keep the candle burning and let you know whenever we find out anything. Sigh.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!