NWSL: A worthwhile investment, not a charity

Women’s soccer players are giving up a lot to play professionally. That was the point of my recent post at SoccerWire and Jeff Kassouf’s piece on players retiring in their 20s.

Deciding to play or retire isn’t easy, as Colleen Williams eloquently describes in her piece about stepping away after a couple of knee injuries. Some people are still chasing a spot on the national team. Some just want to keep playing as long as they can.

The thin silver lining here is that players’ opportunities are improving. Imagine how these pieces would’ve been written in 2007, when players who weren’t in the national team pool were either out of the sport entirely or playing for free in the W-League or WPSL.

What you’ll often hear in response to these laments is that professional soccer is neither a charity nor a cause. And that’s true.

But let’s phrase the argument for backing the NWSL a little differently, borrowing from youth soccer …

The goal of youth soccer is twofold — grow the sport’s talent pool and its fanbase. The latter is often overlooked, though far more youth soccer players will grow up to be fans rather than elite players.

That’s also the goal of women’s pro soccer. And that’s why it’s worthy of investment — by U.S. Soccer, by sponsors, by anyone who cares about the game.

We’re all lamenting the fossilized talent pool for the U.S. national team. Tom Sermanni’s efforts to expand that pool were in vain, but if the NWSL continues to grow, players will have opportunities to play their way in at some point.

And NWSL games give more fans a chance to see players in action — both national team stars and local heroes.

So it’s not a charity. It’s something with value worth supporting as fans and backers of the game.

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