The Soccer Desk

NWSL: Cheryl Bailey’s Thought’s On the League So Far Part 1

NWSL wide

The NWSL is the third attempt at a women’s professional soccer league in the United States. Does it have advantages that it’s predecessor’s didn’t have? Should fans be holding their breath to wait and see if the third time is a charm? These are all questions that are being asked by fans around the United States as the league gets set to enter into the sixth week of play. I spoke with NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey and asked her what her thoughts on the league were so far.

When you begin to look back at the W-USA and the WPS one question that comes to mind is, “What has the NWSL learned from their failures?” I asked Bailey what she has learned from the failures of the past two leagues.

“I was not involved in either one of those organizations, so it’s really hard for be to be specific as to why they failed and what their issues where. Honestly we’ve taken the approach because our league is somewhat different in terms of the set up and the people that are involved with this league to clearly take a look at where we are presently, it’s more looking forward than just only looking back and we have a unique set up, so it’s real hard to say well compare apples to apples when you are looking at those two leagues because we are just very unique. In the team’s that we have, in the fact that we have allocated players from Mexico and Canada who contributing not only as players, but financially. So I guess we can all be a judge of the past two leagues, but we are looking at actually  moving forward with this league.”

The three major North American Soccer Federations have certainly played a big role in getting the NWSL off of the ground.  So how important have they really been? When asked about the backing of the Federations, Bailey says, “That’s been key. Having all three countries come together with not only the financial support, because that’s obviously very significant, but even the players that they are contributing to the league. The quality of those players really was the ability for us to have a stepping stone to then put the rest of the rosters together. So, it’s the financial support that they are providing as well as the players that we have in the league are very significant from those three countries.”

No one can argue that the quality that is seen on the field for every game is certainly world-class. Without some of the best International players in the world playing in this league, you have to wonder what this league would be like.

The fans certainly have been welcoming women’s professional soccer back to the United States. While the first few weeks attendance was strong, it seems to have been dropping off lately. According to Bailey, this isn’t something to be worried about, “You are always going to have particularly when you start out, you are going to have people that want to be there when something first starts, but we are dealing with April and May and Northern and Western cities so weather is a factor, people are still in school. We’ve added some midweek games; we didn’t have midweek games those first couple of weeks, so there have been a variety of things that have come into play that will always affect your attendance and where people are and what they are doing. So you can never take one little snapshot. We loved taking the first snapshot because it looked great, but it’s looking back over the entire body of work that we take a look and see what’s happening and certainly keeping our finger on the pulse, but we are excited with what we had to date for sure.”

While the league is still growing, each team is getting out into their communities to help spread the word. “They know their local market. They all have unique things coming up, special days that they’ve planned,” says Bailey.

Now, supporter groups are nothing new to soccer, even women’s soccer. These groups have come out to show their support for their teams and spread the word about the NWSL. The Rose City Riveters in Portland, the Riptide in Boston, the Spirit Squadron in Washington and the Blue Crew in Kansas City, are all showing that the passion for the game is there, and Bailey seconded those thoughts saying,

“These types of groups are great! They are so excited and they provide a lot of energy and they have the ability to network with a lot of different people to continue to provide fans and get the word out. We don’t have anything specific that we work with these groups, obviously the local markets do. The biggest thing clearly is we are new, we need to get people out there to spread the word to let people know that the National Women’s Soccer League is here. It’s an exciting time for women’s professional sports.”

It may be hard to believe for most people, but the NWSL was put together in only four months. that is an incredibly short amount of time to launch a league. When asked about the short amount of time that was available to them to get the league pulled together, and how pleased she is with the results so far, Bailey said,

“It’s sometimes hard for us to believe that we did just start this venture four or five months ago, and we are in week six already and they’ve been great games. There has been great fan support, there has been a lot of energy, there’s been a lot of interest. We are really excited at this point in time that in such a short period of time everybody has worked extremely hard, whether it’s in the league office, with the team’s, the players; we’ve been very, very pleased with where we are at this point in time given such a short time. There are always little bumps in the road. There are always things that we need to improve upon, things that need to be smoothed out, but right now every week is getting better and we feel very, very good about that.”

Look for the second part of my interview with Cheryl Bailey this weekend.