The US women’s soccer program seems as if it cannot catch a break, after the USWNT (United States Women’s National Team) finally settled a deal with US Soccer over their pay contract in early April, after a long period of negotiation. This included lawsuits, threats of going on strike and a whole lot of other things that shined a not-so-pretty light on women’s soccer in the US. Another hurdle comes its way to US women’s soccer, not directly affecting the USWNT but rather the NWSL (the National Women’s Soccer League). Essentially the NFL for women’s soccer in the US, it has been the longest running national women’s league, that has not collapsed, going on its 5th season. Some of the top shelf NWSL players are leaving the NWSL and going to clubs in Europe. Some of these stars include: Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd, and Heather O’Reilly.
The pros of playing in Europe
Many people have posed the question, why leave the NWSL to play in Europe? What advantages does it have over NWSL? And the answer is quite apparent. These clubs have resources that the NWSL does not. These clubs have the ability to offer a salary that is not below poverty level. For example in an article by Hannah Withiam published by the New York post when interviewed Cari Roccaro a current NWSL player stated, “Last year, my salary was below poverty level when I looked it up,”. Also these European clubs can give training fields and equipment that is superior to NWSL facilities. In some cases these training fields and equipment are equal to the men’s training facilities and equipment, and with certain clubs they use the same facilities as their male counterparts. In the same article published by the New York Post, the ladies manager of the Arsenal Football Club based out of Highbury, London stated, “We have the privilege to have the men’s facilities for all our clubs.” In addition lots of these players are going over to European clubs to get better and develop as players. They have the ability to learn the game in a new light, compared to American soccer tactics and get exposure to become better soccer players overall. In an article published by The Guardian by Beau Dure, Toni Payne the 13 overall draft pick in this years NWSL stated the deciding factor for going abroad, “I think what drew me is that they were very good at developing players”. Payne decided to play for Ajax, a club based out of Amsterdam.
The cons of playing in Europe
Naturally with all of these advantages, there are drawbacks. Many of the NWSL players have cited that playing in the NWSL creates an easier pathway to get National team exposure, and that’s really what all of these NWSL players endgame is. Really if you think about it, why play in a league when the most you can make is $37,800? All of these NWSL players want to do the thing they love but also want to have the ability to get on the USWNT and hopefully earn a decent salary and possibly earn a lucrative sponsorship deals. But when playing in Europe it is hard to get recruited by the USWNT . Instead some NWSL players have chosen a completely different route choosing corporate America over soccer altogether.
Interview with Jazmine Reeves
Jazmine Reeves was raised in Dover, Delaware. Where she attended Caesar Rodney High School, she played varsity soccer for all four years. She was then twice named Delaware Player of the Year from 2008–2009. In addition she earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2009 and 2010. During her freshman year at CR she set a 50 goals state record. After having such a successful high school career she went on to play for the Virginia Tech hokies, where she set the record for appearances with 91, and recorded the second-most points in the school’s history. After her college years she was picked 21st overall in the 2014 NWSL draft, and signed with the Boston Breakers. During her only year in the league she was named NWSL Player of the Week for week 8 of the 2014 season. After one year in the league she decided to retire after being offered a job from Amazon. When talking with Jazmine, she detailed her time during NWSL and some of the challenges she faced. She cited that when playing in the NWSL she did not feel as if she was a professional athlete. During her time in the league Jazmine stayed with a host family in Boston which is not uncommon at all in the NWSL, she said that all the rookies on the team where staying with host families. Jazmine also stated that her team did not have a consistent practice field, the team would sometimes practice at Harvard University. Jazmine detailed that playing in the NWSL is a full time job, but players are not compensated as if it is. She said that it was hard for her to make a living on the side, and that you really have to love soccer to make that sacrifice to play in the NWSL. When she was offered the spot at Amazon she made the decision to accept it knowing that economically would be better for her, especially with all the un-knows of being a professional athlete and nonetheless being a professional athlete in the NWSL.
Europe and all its soccer glory
Playing in Europe is an exciting and different opportunity for NWSL players. It may pose a greater risk to some players that are not on the USWNT and are working towards it. But for some of these USWNT main stay players it an awesome opportunity. Some people may be offended that these player are going to play in Europe and almost leaving the NWSL behind in the dust. But really can you blame them? Europe compared to America has such a rich soccer culture they truly eat, sleep, and breathe soccer. Also not to mention the fact that European women’s soccer players earn higher salaries than NWSL players, for example from in an article by Hannah Whitman published by the NY post it is stated that, “top players can pull down six figures for several months of playing abroad.”
Gonzalez, Roger. “USWNT Star Alex Morgan Leaves NWSL for Europe and More Stars Could Follow.” CBSSports.com. CBS Sports, 20 Dec. 2016. Web. 10 May 2017.
Reeves, Jazmine. Personal interview. 11, May 2017.
Withiam, Hannah. “Why Are Women’s Soccer Superstars Fleeing the US?” New York Post. New York Post, 15 Apr. 2017. Web. 10 May 2017.