NWSL Reaches Inflection Point Amid Macario Growth, Change and Loss
The NWSL has shown, especially last year, a remarkable capacity to adapt to circumstances beyond its control. The years to come will be devoted to how it adapts to take more control of its own situation – and how it adapts to a growing threat when it comes to retaining top domestic talent.
The biggest change in his circumstances confirmed on Tuesday concerns the organizational structure of the league. US Soccer no longer fully manages the league as it did during its first eight seasons of existence, with NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird saying the previous arrangement is no longer (although the federation will continue to contribute and support financially). The league leaves no longer alone, the ship detached from the quay and at sea unattached. Baird said that in the coming months, league owners will establish “a strategic plan that will define the next decade of growth.”
Things had turned out this way before the pandemic, but the drastic detour 2020 provided pushed this plan to greater independence for a year. The growth was coming one way or another, as 2021 will bring with it a new club in Louisville and a club appointed temporarily in Kansas City (following the investigation into the crimes committed at Utah Soccer Holdings, owner of the Utah Royals). The 2022 season will include the addition of new clubs in Los Angeles and Sacramento, the latter’s arrival confirmed by Baird on Tuesday.
Change and growth is how a league evolves into something bigger, but retaining and attracting top talent has to go hand in hand with that evolution if it is to truly thrive. This brings us to the question of Catarina Macario and the continued exodus of top American players to Europe.
A top national team prospect who travels abroad is often a reason to rejoice in American football circles, but the ecosystems of men’s and women’s football aren’t exactly apples and apples. The stature of the NWSL in the global female club landscape and that of the MLS in the male scene differ greatly. So while the recent sales of Philadelphia Union players to European clubs, for example, are cause for celebration and a sign of a job well done by MLS clubs, Macario’s situation is seen under a different angle.
This is not a club or league selling for profit to reinvest and accelerate development. She is a player who chooses her own path elsewhere instead of having one chosen for her here. Had Macario made himself available for the NWSL draft on Wednesday night, there is no doubt Louisville would have run to the virtual podium with the first pick ready to go. Such is his talent and his anticipated trajectory.
Instead, the best collegiate prospect and a potential cornerstone of the U.S. Women’s National Team are heading to Lyon, the world’s leading power in women’s football. Lyon have won the last five UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and seven overall and are full of world-class talent. In France, Macario is likely to win at least half a dozen major trophies during his two-and-a-half-year contract, if Lyon’s record over the past decade is any indication.
All of this seems like good stuff for the player, and the fact that she will likely earn a lot more overseas than she could based on the current NWSL salary structure is an added bonus. Macario herself said on Tuesday that the move was not about the money, but more about experiencing a new culture at a young age, playing at a club with first-class facilities and accommodation and getting to know each other. challenge at the highest level in a world rich environment. -class stars.
“I will not be the best player on the field anymore,” she said Tuesday from US training camp. “That’s what I want. That’s how I can become a better player.”
The fact that his decision comes as several established senior national team players have left and continue to travel abroad (Abby Dahlkemper has reportedly joined Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle at Manchester City as the latest example, while Tobin Heath and Christen Press would stay with Manchester United.), Only further sheds light on the bubbling issue of NWSL talent retention and the growing threat of major robberies in England, France, Germany and Spain. Players wanting to stay active for an Olympic year as the pandemic has hampered the NWSL schedule is one thing, but it doesn’t appear that the allure of playing overseas is limited to the reasons induced by COVID-19 . The top clubs in the Women’s Super League in England and elsewhere on the continent beyond Lyon have deep pockets – the kind that can be quite alluring compared to home offerings.
Macario isn’t the first player to pick Europe over NWSL (nor is she the only potential 2021 overseas rookie; Florida state’s Malia Berkely also heads to France after having signed with Bordeaux). She is not even the first Stanford player to do so over the past two years, with defender Alana Cook choosing PSG over the 2019 NWSL Draft. But missing a player of her quality underscores the need to offer enough enticing elements for players to like she stay at home while maintaining finances. stability. This is not a fact that has gone unnoticed at League HQ.
“I know we need to continue to invest in our players to make sure we attract and retain the best players in the world,” said Baird.
In the defense of NWSL, he tried to some extent with Macario. He extended the usefulness of the cash allocation – numbers that go beyond the salary cap to recruit more expensive talent – so that it can be used on the overall first pick in the draft. Reading between the lines, it was a ploy to offer a little more to a player like Macario hoping to stay in the United States. That hasn’t proven to be enough, however, and it should trigger a new line of questioning about what it will take to outbid and over-recruit foreign counterparts.
Another change the league would make in this direction is that players who would normally be awarded through US Soccer and paid by the federation can now go out on their own and be paid directly by clubs through allowances.
According to Athletic, that’s what Portland is doing to entice Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan, and when American women sign a new ABC, the whole arrangement could be completely different. The math is changing on all fronts.
As in most cases, a player weighing the NWSL against a club abroad is not a unique situation. Last year’s No.1 pick, for example, US forward Sophia Smith (and a Macario varsity teammate) said Europe was on the table for her, but picked the NWSL .
“[Going abroad] was an option I had, “she said Tuesday from the American camp.” I had to think about what was best for me at the time.
“I really think the NWSL does a great job opening its doors to anyone who dreams of playing professional football.”
Macario, for what it’s worth, has said she will play in the NWSL at some point in her career.
“I would love to play [in] the NWSL someday, “she said.” I know it will happen. I don’t necessarily know when, but as an American it’s a dream to play where I live. So I will definitely come back. “
In June 2023, when Macario’s contract in Lyon expires, the United States will prepare for a three-round Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Maybe the homecoming comes after, or maybe she’s such a hit with Lyon that she’s staying abroad longer. By that time, the NWSL will have at least 12 clubs and will be in its 11th season – and ideally have a system in place and an environment in enough clubs where the most attractive choice is the one closest to home.