From expansion to to broadcast rights to VAR technology, changes are coming to the NWSL.
League commissioner Jessica Berman provided updates ahead of Thursday’s draft on these and more key topics. Here’s everything NWSL fans need to know to kick off 2023.
Two teams are expected to join the league in 2024, with one in Utah and another in one of three locations (Boston, the Bay Area or Tampa, Florida).
Berman did not have any information to share about the second location or the logistics of the new teams joining the NWSL. But she will provide more details soon, she said, likely in “weeks.”
“When we have news to share, we will,” she said. “I think what I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us. And I think when we have news to share, you will all agree that, number one, it was worth waiting for. And number two, it will be a moment where we can all really recognize that the NWSL is a business worth investing in, and will really demonstrate and validate the value that we all know these players and this league deserve.”
The salary cap for the upcoming season has been raised by 25% to $1.375 million, and allocation money has been upped to $600,000.
Teams also are increasing their individual investments in coaching staffs, facilities and “other areas that we know our players need and deserve in order to perform at the highest level,” Berman said. Those investments are doubling and tripling from last year, she said.
With the NWSL’s broadcast rights deals set to expire at the end of the 2023 season, Berman and the league are interested in seeing what the market can offer.
That could include re-signing with CBS or reaching deals with other networks. The three factors that could influence a deal are term, reach and dollars, Berman said.
“We have not yet made a decision about what’s the primary driver, because it will depend on the market,” she said. “And the market will tell us whether and how we should balance those three, and oftentimes competing initiatives.”
The league’s current deals — with CBS, worth $4.5 million, and with Twitch, worth more than $1 million — appear to be undervalued compared to other sports broadcast deals. For example, MLS signed a deal with Apple TV in 2022 worth $250 million per season.
Up 71% from last season's championship.(via @NWSL) pic.twitter.com/RJ4XdvnyX4— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) November 1, 2022
Up 71% from last season's championship.(via @NWSL) pic.twitter.com/RJ4XdvnyX4
In addition to signing a broadcast deal and increasing salaries, the NWSL will focus in 2023 on renewing its brand and continuing to grow the league’s identity, Berman said. The NWSL will focus on investment into the league, whether that comes from sponsorship, expansion, media deals or “any other perspective.”
“Smart investment, future investment is an indication that the business is worth investing in, and that smart people have determined that it’s an area of growth,” Berman said.
Video assistant referee (VAR) technology is coming to the NWSL, Berman reiterated Thursday. The league first announced in July that it would introduce VAR in 2023, and the process is already underway.
The investment has been approved by the NWSL board, Berman said, and VAR will be in place for the start of the season.
Still, it’s a challenging undertaking, as it takes extensive resources and training, Berman said. The process will take several months, and in order to properly implement VAR, at least six cameras are needed for each game.
🖥️// With @NWSL implementing video review in the 2023 season, a new cohort of video match officials are being trained to meet the demand.Find out more >> https://t.co/hrhIM6RGKf.#PRO | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/zdLCrviXBf— PRO (@PROreferees) November 26, 2022
🖥️// With @NWSL implementing video review in the 2023 season, a new cohort of video match officials are being trained to meet the demand.Find out more >> https://t.co/hrhIM6RGKf.#PRO | #NWSL pic.twitter.com/zdLCrviXBf