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USL Super League president on calendar, hopes for interleague competitions

Behind new women’s second flight’s plans with Amanda Vandervort.

FIFA Women’s Football Convention - Portraits Photo by Elsa - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

The USL Super League is coming, and with it, a landmark expansion of the women’s professional soccer outlook in the United States.

After USL launched the W League this year, a fourth-tier amateur league intended to give college and select youth players the opportunity for short-term elite competition in the summer, their next venture will be to establish the Super League, which will serve as the Division II professional division in the United States, just below the top flight NWSL.

In talking to USL Super League president Amanda Vandervort last week, the league, projected to begin play in the fall of 2023, plans to begin rolling out news about clubs participating in the debut season and other news about the new division early in the new year.

The biggest news to date about the league is that the Super League will be changing from the traditional season calendar in the U.S. Announced in March, the league plans to run from fall to spring, much like many of the top European leagues. And in a nod to parts of the United States that may not be amenable to playing games regularly in December or January, the league plans to have a league break in the winter much like the Bundesliga.

“We’re focused on delivering the best experience for our players and fans,” Vandervort told Angels on Parade. “And so through our analysis, what we’ve heard players saying, what we’ve listened to the fans about is, it’s not just about the international match calendar, and running from the fall through to the summer calendar, but it’s more so the reason we’re doing it.”

While many saw the Super League’s decision to run a league season that runs differently to all of the other established pro soccer leagues in the U.S. as an experiment of sorts, with American fans of leagues abroad in particular craving a situation resembling the leagues they regularly follow, Vandervort explained the decision isn’t intended to be experimental as much as trying to set up the calendar in ways that makes sense for players and clubs alike.

“I think it’s important to root it in why we decided to go with it and it’s not about going against the grain, it’s creating the best opportunity for players and fans so our players, the summer months they can go and compete at the Olympics or the Women’s World Cup, and not be so conflicted with the club and country conflicts,” Vandervort said. “And then alternatively for the fans and markets. I mean, they’re going to get their top level players more often and consistently throughout the season. And so that’s just one example of kind of the why behind it, but that for us is the fundamental way we do business, is understand what will drive business success and then, build out our strategic planning or calendars or our clubs accordingly.”

Vandervort additionally noted that the beginning of the season and the end of the season and playoffs, with the USL Super League title being decided, will be played in good weather, which has at times been a drawback for leagues in the U.S. that run inside a calendar year, their biggest games sometimes affected by less-than-ideal conditions.

On top of all of that, if the Super League runs on a different schedule than other leagues, that should open up available dates for venues with less overlap, and expand opportunities for clubs that may have both men’s and women’s teams to expand their businesses.

“It allows a club to have year round soccer programming. I mean, obviously the fans can engage [with more soccer]. But if you look at it from a club perspective and a long term business, success and sustainability you’re diversifying your assets in a way with unique fan bases, unique products that you’re delivering on, unique sponsors and you can create a well-rounded business as a result,” said Vandervort.

2023 will be another big year in women’s soccer, with the World Cup scheduled to take place in Australia and New Zealand. It sounds as if the USL Super League will launch following that, and in past years, the NWSL has seen a spike in interest coming off World Cups, so that spike could very well help propel the new second tier league, too.

Vandervort was asked if the USL has been in contact with the NWSL and if there are any aspirations for the leagues to collaborate in the future, and she very much gave a green light on her part.

“I just think it’s such an amazing time right now in women’s soccer, right? Not only are you seeing women leaders of these organizations, you know, from female commissioners to female presidents of the leagues, and all the way down. And we’re very collaborative. So I’m excited about that. It’s a really exciting time and in the women’s soccer industry, I think at large and would I love to have the Super League teams up against our counterparts during the U.S. Open Cup, for example, like I think that’d be super cool and in working together to advocate for a tournament like that, or a Concacaf Champions League or Club World Cup, right, kind of these tournaments that we have seen be so successful on the men’s side and spur on development and investment to build similar structures and models on the women’s side.

“I hope we can all be champions in that effort together because this momentum in women’s soccer right now is just amazing. And I’m happy to be part of it,” she added.

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