By Kara McDermott, Women’s Football Correspondent
Yesterday Seattle soccer fans welcomed the good news from the USSF overlords that the Emerald City would be granted one of the eight franchises in the newest installment of top flight women’s soccer (a league that has yet to reveal its official name).
US Soccer Federation, along with the Canadian Soccer Association and the Federation of Mexican Football, will subsidize the salaries of US National team members in the league. The Americans will cover up to 24 players, the Canadians up to 16 and the Mexicans up to 12.
For fans who have already witnessed women’s soccer in the US as twice a bridesmaid, the USSF made assurances that there would be enough oversight to ensure a stable and sustainable business model for this third round of professional women’s soccer.
Indeed, they have chosen key marketplaces with soccer bases: Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Western New York, New Jersey, Portland and Washington D.C. as well as Seattle. A lot of these cities we’ve seen before with names like the Boston Breakers and Sky Blue FC (New Jersey).
One of the biggest changes from previous manifestations is the inclusion of gold-rush towns Portland and Seattle. Seattle has been successfully operating a women’s team in the USL W-League since 2001 with a season that generally ranges from California to Vancouver and a few trips into Colorado. For the USSF to include the west coast in their revamp speaks to the confidence of this marketplace despite the travel costs.
But it will be a crowded marketplace.
This new professional team, owned by Bill Predmore, will assuredly not be the sister team to Seattle Sounders FC. Rather, the saga is shaping up to be something more akin to awkward cousins. Sounders FC will continue to share its brand with the USL-W team, so don’t expect Predmore’s side to be sporting rave green.
It’s hard to imagine that the US National team members the Seattle Sounders FC had this last season, including standouts like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, will settle for the W-League when given the opportunity to play in the top tier. In fact, there might be a noticeable shift from one affiliation to another though information is currently scant and speculation rampant.
However, if such an exodus should occur, there could actually be a benefit for both the teams and the players. The top players will have the competition needed to hone skills and get precious pitch minutes in preparation for their National Team duties. The USL-W could continue in its rather brilliant model of dual eligibility; that is developing college players without forcing them to sacrifice their amateur status. The National pool would both widen and deepen.
In reality, if everyone could get along then everyone could win.
So far, though there are subtle signs that this family reunion might not be entirely peaceful. The Seattle Sounders decided not to renew general manager Amy Carnell’s contract. Her relationship with the Sounders stretched back to her playing days in the USL from 2002-2008, when she then crossed over into the front office of Sounders FC in 2009 and then on to GM for the women’s side in 2012. She is now a member of Predmore’s organization squad.
Predmore himself might be just the right person for the current challenge. His main professional background is digital marketing (including clients such as Nike, MLS and the Sounders). Certainly, branding is going to be a key challenge to distinguish between the two teams while also sharing fans, players and professional talent.
There should be plenty of excitement for the future of women’s soccer in Seattle, despite the complicated family dynamics. But then, who would want a dull Thanksgiving dinner anyway?
Full Coverage of a Big Day for Women’s Football: