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NWSL rival league aims to be ‘competitive’ with 2024 launch

The USL already has the pre-professional W League, but its new Super League would be in direct competition with the NWSL. (Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The United Soccer League will launch a new professional women’s league in 2024 with plans to compete directly against the NWSL.

The USL Super League will kick off in August 2024 with 10 to 12 teams. Eight franchise locations already have been announced:

  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  • Lexington, Kentucky
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Tampa Bay, Florida
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Washington D.C.

The D.C. franchise will operate in conjunction with the city’s MLS club D.C. United. Other franchises, including Phoenix, will have connections to USL men’s clubs. Four other cities are expected to join in subsequent seasons, with Chattanooga, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Madison and Oakland among the possible locations, The Athletic reported.

Initially, the USL had announced in 2021 that it would apply for Division II sanctioning for the new league, which would put it a step below the NWSL. Instead, it will now apply to U.S. Soccer for Division I sanctioning.

“The USL Super League will sit at the top of our women’s pyramid with strong ownership groups, modern stadiums, and passionate fans that will deliver immediate viability and long-term sustainability,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a league statement.

The league will run on a fall-to-summer schedule, putting it on the same calendar as most international soccer leagues. That will put the Super League in contrast with the NWSL, which runs on a spring-to-fall schedule.

In response to news of the USL Super League, an NWSL spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that they “welcome more opportunities for women to play professional soccer in the United States.”

USL Super League president Amanda Vandervort did not respond to questions about whether the league could be too much growth for the women’s pro game in the United States in such a short timeframe. The NWSL recently announced that it would add two more teams in 2026 to bring its total to 16, on top of two teams being added in 2024.

“The United States has 12 professional women’s teams but is about the same footprint and population as all of Europe, and they have over 150 top-tier professional women’s teams,” Vandervort told The Athletic. “There’s so much opportunity in this country. Ultimately I believe we’re filling an opportunity gap, and it’s our responsibility to do it at the highest standard.”

The Super League will operate without a salary cap, with the aim to compete on the global market. The current minimum salary in the NWSL is $36,400. Top player salaries sit at nearly $300,000 per year.

The USL hopes to capitalize on increased viewership for women’s sports, and has hied Octagon to help with their media rights deal.

“I think then we’re seeing it from a commercial standpoint, from a fan standpoint, fan engagement is off the charts. Decades of work have gone into where we are today and amazing people have been investing their lives in this journey along the way,” Vandervort said. “And I’m excited that we have now these ownership groups that are prepared to invest at the levels that they’re ready to invest.

“From building and upgrading incredible stadiums across this country to really investing in the experience for both players and fans, I think it’s an incredible moment in women’s soccer.”