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National Women's Soccer League

For the Australian league, see Women's National Soccer League.

National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)
File:NWSL logo.svg
Country United States
Confederation CONCACAF (North America)
Founded 2012
Number of teams 9
Level on pyramid 1
Current champions FC Kansas City
Current shield Seattle Reign FC
Most championships Portland Thorns FC (1 title),
FC Kansas City (1 title)
Most Supporters' Shields Western New York Flash (1 shield),
Seattle Reign FC (1 shield)
33px 2015 NWSL season

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is the top level professional women's soccer league in the United States. It began play in spring 2013 with eight teams; four of them are former members of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), which had been the top women's league in the United States soccer pyramid before its demise in 2012.[1][2][3]

Competition format

The NWSL season runs from April–August with each team scheduled for 24 regular season games, 12 each of home and road.[4] For the 2015 season: 20 games, 10 each of home and road, will be scheduled, because of the FIFA Women's World Cup. At the end of the regular season, the team with the highest point total is awarded the regular season title. The four clubs with the most points from the regular season standings qualify for the NWSL playoffs, which consist of two semifinal single knockout matches (1 seed plays 4; 2 seed plays 3), with the winner of each semifinal advancing to the championship final hosted by the team with most regular season points.[5]



After WPS officially folded in April 2012, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced a roundtable for discussion of the future of women's professional soccer in the United States. The meeting, which included representatives from USSF, WPS teams, the W-League, and the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), was held in June and resulted in the planning of a new league set to launch in 2013 with 12–16 teams, taking from each of the three leagues. Compared to WPS, the teams would have a relatively low salary cap of $500,000,[6] though this was later lowered to $200,000.[7]

NWSL Major Trophy Winners
Season NWSL Champions
Play-off winners
NWSL Shield
Regular season winners
2013 Portland Thorns FC Western New York Flash
2014 FC Kansas City Seattle Reign FC

In November 2012, it was announced that there would be eight teams in a new women's professional soccer league, yet to be named at the time of the announcement, subsidized by the USSF, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). The three federations would pay the salaries of their national team players (24 from the US, 16 from Canada, and 12 to 16 from Mexico) to aid the teams in creating world-class rosters while staying under the salary cap. The players would be distributed evenly (as possible) among the eight teams in an allocation process. USSF would run the league offices and set the schedule.[8]

On November 29, 2012, it was announced that Cheryl Bailey had been named Executive Director of the new league. Bailey had previously served as General Manager of the United States women's national soccer team from 2007 to 2011, which included leading the support staff for the U.S. team during the 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cups as well as the 2008 Summer Olympics. During her tenure with the women's national team, she was in charge of all areas of administration including interfacing with clubs, team travel, payroll, and working with FIFA, CONCACAF and other Federations.[9]



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Locations of teams for the 2014 National Women's Soccer League season.

Nine NWSL teams are divided amongst the west coast, east coast, and central regions of the United States. Each club is allowed a minimum of 18 players on their roster, with a maximum of 20 players allowed at any time during the season.[10] Originally, each team's roster includes up to three allocated American national team players, up to two allocated Mexico women's national team players, and up to two Canadian allocated national team players via the NWSL Player Allocation and subsequent trades.[11] In addition, each team has three spots available for international players.[12] The remaining roster spots must be filled by domestic players from the United States. Teams fill their rosters via a number of drafts and 4-6 discovery player signings.[10]

National Women's Soccer League
Team Stadium Capacity City Founded Joined NWSL
Boston Breakers Harvard Stadium 30,323 Boston, Massachusetts 2008 2013
Chicago Red Stars Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex 3,000 Lisle, Illinois 2007 2013
FC Kansas City Swope Soccer Village Championship Field[13] 3,200 Kansas City, Missouri 2012 2013
Houston Dash BBVA Compass Stadium 7,000[n 1][14] Houston, Texas 2013 2014
Portland Thorns FC Providence Park 20,438 Portland, Oregon 2012 2013
Seattle Reign FC Memorial Stadium 6,000[n 2] Seattle, Washington 2012 2013
Sky Blue FC Yurcak Field 5,000 Piscataway, New Jersey 2007 2013
Washington Spirit Maryland SoccerPlex 5,200 Boyds, Maryland 2012 2013
Western New York Flash Sahlen's Stadium 13,768 Rochester, New York 2008 2013
  1. ^ BBVA Compass Stadium has a capacity of slightly over 22,000, but seating is restricted to 7,000 for Dash games.
  2. ^ Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 12,000, but seating is restricted to 6,000 for Reign games.


The majority of league games are available for viewing via YouTube or via individual team's websites.[15] Of the eight teams in the league during the inaugural season, the Boston Breakers were the only team that charged a fee for access to their broadcasts.[16]

On April 18, 2013, NWSL signed a one-year agreement with Fox Sports to televise nine games of the NWSL’s inaugural season. As part of the agreement, Fox Sports 2 aired six regular-season matches and all three playoff matches, which included the two semifinal games on August 24 and 25, and the championship game on August 31.[17]

On May 28, 2014, NWSL signed a one-year agreement with ESPN to televise nine games of the 2014 NWSL Season. The games include 3 regular season games on ESPN2, as well as 3 regular season games live-streamed on ESPN3, available at and the WatchESPN app. Additionally, the two semi-final games on August 23 and 24, and the NWSL final on August 31 will all be aired live on ESPN2.[18]

NWSL commissioners/CEOs

Name Years
Cheryl Bailey (com.) 2012–2014[19]
Jeff Plush (com.) 2015[20]

NWSL awards

Main article: NWSL awards

Throughout the season, the league awards Player of the Week and Player of the Month awards to individual players, which are voted on by the media.[21][22] The league presents six annual awards for outstanding achievements voted on by owners, general managers, coaches, players and the media:[23]

  1. Golden Boot
  2. Rookie of the Year
  3. Goalkeeper of the Year
  4. Defender of the Year
  5. Coach of the Year
  6. Most Valuable Player (MVP)

In addition, the league names a NWSL Best XI team and NWSL Second XI team which are voted on by journalists, club officials and NWSL players.[24]

Player records

Statistics below are for all-time regular season leaders.


Main article: NWSL expansion

Soon after launch, the league reportedly planned to expand to ten teams for 2014.[25] Potential candidates included groups not accepted as part of the original eight; groups from the Los Angeles area (joint effort from the LA Strikers and Pali Blues)[26] and from Hartford, Connecticut[27] were confirmed failed bids, as was one from the Seattle Sounders Women. There was speculation that the Vancouver Whitecaps Women could be logical candidates especially given the WWC 2015 in Canada; however, the Whitecaps cancelled their women's program (except for one U-18 academy team) in December 2012.

During the inaugural season, there were rumors of expansion interest from MLS teams Toronto FC[28][29] and the New York Red Bulls,[30] as well as confirmed interest from WPSL side the Houston Aces.[31] NWSL team owners hinted that expansion for 2014 was not a question of "if" but "how many".[32][33] Despite this, it was announced during the playoffs that there would be no expansion for the league's second season,[34] though the Red Bulls and Sky Blue FC confirmed that they were in discussions for cooperation.[32][35]

During the first offseason, the Houston Dynamo added their name to the list of MLS teams interested in fielding a women's side, stating that they were "exploring the opportunity" of starting an NWSL side in 2014 or '15[36] and in 2013 they announced the Houston Dash with 2014 as their inaugural season.[37] By early December, NWSL approved a new team run by the Dynamo organization for expansion in 2014,[38] despite their earlier statement that there would be no expansion for the league's second season.

During the second offseason, expansion talk grew rapidly, with three established men's teams (Real Salt Lake of MLS, the Indy Eleven of NASL, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Pro) expressing interest in joining NWSL, as well as an unattached group from Atlanta. There was also rumored or suggested interest from three men's team in California, though none of those group have made official statements.

See also


  1. ^ "WILL NWSL BE A SUCCESS? WELL ...". ESPN. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  2. ^ Whiteside, Kelly (November 21, 2012). "Women's pro soccer league to debut in U.S. next year". USA Today. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Seattle will have team in new women's professional league owned by Bill Predmore". Seattle Times. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Bird, Liviu. "Merritt Paulson Confident Women’s Soccer Will Thrive in Portland". Equalizer Soccer. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  5. ^ "2014 Competition Rules and Regulations". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (June 29, 2012). "New women’s soccer league in the works for 2013 following meeting in Chicago". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  7. ^ Bell, Jack (April 13, 2013). "Another Attempt at Women’s Circuit, but With a Twist". New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  8. ^ Lauletta, Dan (November 21, 2012). "Eight teams to start new women’s pro soccer league in 2013". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Cheryl Bailey Named Executive Director of New Women's Soccer League". US Soccer. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "2013 Roster Rules". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  11. ^ Graham Hays (11 January 2013). "NWSL ALLOCATION EASIER SAID THAN DONE". ESPN. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "2014 Roster Rules - National Women's Soccer League". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 4 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Bell, Thad. "FC Kansas City and Sporting KC partner". SB Nation. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "Dynamo welcome NWSL expansion team: Houston Dash". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  15. ^ "National Women's Soccer League". YouTube. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  16. ^ Murray, Caitlin (14 August 2013). "Assessing Year 1, future of NWSL livestreams". Equalizer Soccer. Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  17. ^ "NWSL, FSMG ANNOUNCE NATIONAL TV AGREEMENT - National Women's Soccer League". Retrieved April 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ "NWSL AND ESPN ANNOUNCE NATIONAL BROADCAST AGREEMENT". May 28, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2014. 
  19. ^ "NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey to step down". November 18, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Jeff Plush is new commissioner of women's soccer league". January 6, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Player of the Week: Jen Hoy". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "August's Best: Monica Ocampo". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  23. ^ "NWSL ANNOUNCES 2013 AWARDS". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  24. ^ "NWSL BEST XI". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  25. ^ Giase, Frank (December 11, 2012). "On Soccer: New women's pro league has backing of U.S. Soccer Federation". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  26. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (November 20, 2012). "Established LA ownership excluded for geography". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  27. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (November 21, 2012). "Connecticut hopes for expansion bid, again". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  28. ^ Wahl, Grant (April 14, 2013). "GrantWahl: Hearing Vancouver and Toronto...". Twitter. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  29. ^ Rollins, Duane (May 15, 2013). "The View from the North: Silence speaking volumes in Toronto?". The Equalizer. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  30. ^ Wahl, Grant (April 26, 2013). "GrantWahl: Hearing more MLS teams are...". Twitter. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  31. ^ Coleman, Adam (July 17, 2013). "Cy Woods girls' soccer coach living dream as pro player". Cyprus Creek Mirror. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b Giase, Frank (August 20, 2013). "On Soccer: National Women's Soccer League on solid ground". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  33. ^ "arnim whisler on expansion". August 4, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  34. ^ Murray, Caitlin (August 25, 2013). "Exclusive: Gulati confirms no NWSL expansion for 2014". Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  35. ^ Bell, Jack (August 23, 2013). "Sky Blue Looks Beyond N.W.S.L. Playoffs". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  36. ^ Lovell, Darrell (November 19, 2013). "Houston Dynamo looking into becoming second MLS team to own professional women's club". Houston Dynamo. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Houston Dynamo launch Houston Dash as expansion member of National Women’s Soccer League". Houston Dynamo. December 12, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  38. ^ Goff, Steve (December 11, 2013). "NWSL expanding to Houston in 2014". Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 

External links