This week the NWSL – US Women’s soccer league confirmed it will be the first US Pro League to return to play as they will host a playoff type of tourney with all the games being played in Salt Lake City in late June thru mid July. Games will be on the CBS Sports Ap streaming and the occasional game on CBS Sports Network and the finals on CBS. This same approach is being considered by MLS in and around the Disney complex in Orlando but still no confirmation yet. Of course huge news that the EPL is returning June 17 to resume their season in full and Serie A is back June 20th. Oh happy late Bday to my favorite US Defender Carlos Bocenegra.
Crowd Noise or No Crowd Noise –that is the question
As the German Bundesliga kicked off week 2 with games on the weekend and mid-week – things were just a little different. The Sunday and weekday games featured artificial crowd noise added in over the broadcast. Honestly I thought it was ok – and certainly the roar of the crowd to pull your eyes towards the TV on a goalscoring opportunity was a welcome return to normal. I have seen those who say they love it and some who hated it. What are your Thoughts? Also what about the complete loss of home field advantage for German teams with no fans in the stands – the home team is just 5 Wins, 12 Losses and 10 draws since the return. Even the 13K card board cutouts of fans at MGladbach didn’t help as they lost at home. Yes fans YOU DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE !!
US Players better in German Week 2
So the American’s definitely played better in the 2 matchdays this past week as Weston McKinney scored in a 2-1 loss for Schalke (man they are struggling with no wins in 11 games now), Timmy Chandler scored the tying goal for Frankfurt in a late sub role and Tyler Adams for Red Bull went the full 90 minutes for the first time this calendar year – unfortunately it was at right back not the 6 – but still a decent show by him. Also Josh Sargent started for Werder Bremman, played 73 minutes and showed decent hold up play but no shots on goal, and John Brooks after being smoked by Dortmund on Sat, returned with a solid effort in a 4-1 win over Leverkusen. Of course the big game was Dortmund and Gio Reyna vs Bayern Munich as the youngster came on in the 72nd minute down 1-0. Bayern hung on to effectively clinch the lead with a now 7 point lead. Dortmund who did not have the home fans to help them to victory fall back just 2 up on RB Leipzig for 2nd. (See stories in the OBC)
They will get chances again this weekend as many of the games on TV feature teams with American’s at least on the roster. Games start with doubles at 9:30 am on Sat on FS1 & FS2, with US forward Josh Sargent traveling to face Schalke and Weston McKinney at 9:30 on FS1, while John Brooks and Wolfsburg hosts Timmy Chandler and Frankfurt on FS2. Sunday we get Dortmund and Gio Reyna traveling to Paderbourn at 12:30 pm on FS1. Adams plays with Leipzig at 2:30 on FS2 Mon, while Sargent laces them up for Werder Bremen on Wed at 2:30 on FS2.
Artificial Crowd Noise at games – Yes or No – S&S
Carmel FC has returned to Training !
GAMES ON TV
Fri, May 29
2:30 pm Fox Sport1 Frieburg vs Bayer Leverkusen
Sat, May 30
9:30 am Fox Sport1 Schalke (Mckinney) vs Werder Bremen (Sargent)
9:30 am Fox Sport2 Wolfsburg (John Brooks) vs Frankfurt (Timmy Chandler)
12:30 FS1 Bayer Munich vs Fortuna Dusseldorf (Morales)
Sun, May 24
9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Borrusia Mgladbach vs Union Berlin
12 pm FS1 Paderbuorn vs Dortmund (Gio Reyna)
Mon, June 1
12:30 pm FS 1 Koln vs RB Leipzig (Adams)
Wed, June 3
12:30 pm Fox Sport2 Werder Bremen (Sargent) vs Frankfort (Chandler)
Wed, June 17 EPL Returns
Sat, June 20 Serie A (Italy) Returns
EPL and World
With the Premier League expected to now resume on June 17, Robbie Earle explains why it’s so important for the league to resume action this season.
• La Liga: Set for June 11 start
• Premier League: Set for June 17 start
• Serie A: Set for June 20 start
• Bundesliga: Restarted on May 16
• Ligue 1: PSG declared champions
• MLS: June tournament proposed
• Euro 2020: Postponed until 2021
• Copa America: Postponed until 2021
How the NWSL plans to become the first U.S. team sport to return to action
11:24 AM ET Graham Hays ESPN.com
Summer tournaments provided women’s soccer with its most indelible images, from Brandi Chastain in the Rose Bowl in 1999 to Megan Rapinoe in Lyon two decades later. Now the National Women’s Soccer League hopes a tournament without an array of international anthems can capture the imagination of fans eager for live sports amid a pandemic.Its eighth regular season on hold for more than a month because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced this week that it will host the NWSL Challenge Cup in the Salt Lake City area beginning on June 27. The monthlong tournament will feature all nine teams and, as things currently stand, mark the return of professional team sports in the United States. “There are some times when you see America and Americans fall in love with a sport,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said. “It just felt like, with everything that has happened, professional women’s soccer was going to have a year this year to pay that off. I think the tournament format that we came up with was a very innovative solution that gives, in a compressed amount of time, Americans a really exciting single-elimination knockout tournament.”That’s an optimistic vision for a league that has survived far longer than its predecessors but still struggled at times to transform interest in the U.S. women’s national team into a consistent nationwide audience for a professional venture featuring many of those stars.How will the NWSL try to pull it off and what is still unknown? Here’s what you need to know.
How did we arrive at the NWSL Challenge Cup?
NWSL teams were in the early days of preseason when the sports world shut down in March in response to the pandemic. The league canceled its preseason schedule and issued a training moratorium on March 12, the same day the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Soon after, the league extended the training moratorium into the first week of April, postponing the scheduled April 18 start of the regular season.The league subsequently announced that players could begin individual workouts at team facilities on May 6, subject to state and local health mandates — leaving players in markets such as Chicago, New York-New Jersey and Seattle-Tacoma initially unable to begin such sessions. For teams in areas where it was permitted, the second phase of a return began this week with small group training of up to eight players. The NWSL also announced that full team training could begin May 30, where allowed, providing five days of small group training had been completed.But instead of trying to play out a delayed version of its regular season, necessitating extensive travel and the use of nine facilities in nine states — some in very different phases of a reopening process than others — the league settled on the tournament plan announced Wednesday.According to Baird, the league received four bids to host the event but quickly focused on Utah. Baird cited the state’s overall record responding to the pandemic and the resources Utah Royals FC owner Dell Loy Hansen brought to the table — including Rio Tinto Stadium and Zions Bank Stadium, a training complex with multiple practice fields and plans for accommodations.Hansen told the Salt Lake Tribune that he also paid $700,000 to help subsidize the cost of the tournament. In a conference call with media, Hansen said there was a chance the event could pay for itself.
What is the tournament format?
All nine teams will participate in an opening group phase. The exact structure and draw is still to be determined, but each team will play four games in the opening phase. Only the lowest-ranked team will be eliminated, with eight teams advancing to the knockout rounds.OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore said there was extensive debate among owners about whether to move directly from the group phase to semifinals, eliminating five teams, or adopt the existing format with a quarterfinal round. Part of the thinking in opting for the quarterfinals, Predmore said, was allowing teams more leeway for lineup rotation in the group games as players regain match fitness. In other words, they won’t call the group games preseason, but they aren’t far off.The league will release more details on rules and format in the days ahead, but Predmore said teams will have five substitutions per game, as has been standard in Germany’s Bundesliga since it became the first major soccer league to return to competition earlier this month. He also said it was all but certain that teams will be able to have an active roster of 20 players.
Is this the only NWSL soccer that will be played this year?
It seems likely. Baird wouldn’t commit to that reality Wednesday, but it’s difficult to envision many scenarios in which a modified regular season could begin in August or September and still conclude with any sort of postseason. The regular season was originally scheduled to wrap up on Oct. 18, with semifinals on Nov. 8 and the final on Nov. 14 at a site yet to be announced”I think like many businesses and many leagues around the United States, they’re planning for what they can do now,” Baird said. “And we’re always going to be aware and attentive for what happens in the future. What I can assure you is that between us, the NWSLPA, our owners, anything that we do in the fall will be guided by the care and safety of our players and, of course, what happens with state and local public health guidance.”Predmore said OL Reign season-ticket holders were informed Wednesday of the option to roll over those tickets for 2021 or receive a full refund, indicating there are no plans to revive the schedule that was released in February. But he also said several teams have discussed continuing training beyond the summer tournament and further play isn’t out of the question — whether in the form of friendlies or even a second tournament-type event.”Nothing that was announced today would preclude any of those outcomes,” Predmore said. “I don’t think there’s any certainty on any of those right now. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Will there be any fans?
Very likely not, although Baird somewhat surprisingly also didn’t rule it out entirely Wednesday.”We need to develop a financial proposition that allows us to put on an incredible tournament,” Baird said of the thought process. “We’ve been able to do that with the help of Dell Loy and our sponsors that allowed our owners to unanimously vote in support of paying our players through the rest of the year. And the way we did it is we didn’t want to be dependent on ticket revenue to do that. … So right now we are not planning for any spectators.”What the states allow and what they don’t allow is the guidance we’re going to follow. And what the CDC allows and what they don’t allow is the guidance that we’re going to follow above all. Right now, we’re not looking at spectators at this point in time.”As of now, only the opening game and final will be televised on a linear network, with all other games available on CBS’ streaming platform and re-airing on its cable sports channel. The league and CBS agreed to a broadcast deal earlier this year.
Will the USWNT players participate?
There are still a lot of questions about what the Challenge Cup will look like, but this is likely to be the question that receives the most attention. A year after they won the World Cup (the Challenge Cup opener in Utah is a day before the one-year anniversary of the thrilling U.S. quarterfinal win against host France in Paris), the status of U.S. players is uncertain.One source with knowledge of the discussions confirmed to ESPN multiple reports that U.S. players are not of a collective mind about the NWSL tournament. And the national team’s union issued a statement Wednesday saying the decision would be an individual one for each player. A source with connections to U.S. Soccer confirmed that the players would continue to receive their full NWSL salaries, which are paid by the federation for allocated players, regardless of their participation in the Challenge Cup.The risk of injury posed by playing a monthlong tournament on predominantly artificial turf is no greater for national team players than non-national team players stuck without access to full training in recent months, but the prospect of the rescheduled 2021 Olympics does arguably raise the stakes for players reluctant to risk any injury that could jeopardize their 2021 status.That, in addition to understandable concerns about returning to play amid a pandemic in the here and now.Teams have until June 21 to submit final rosters for the tournament.Among early signalers, North Carolina Courage and U.S. midfielder Sam Mewis left little doubt as to her intentions.”I think we are just excited for the opportunity to play,” Mewis said of the Courage. “I know myself and my teammates just want to showcase what we can do and compete again. I think that’s what we’ve all been missing the most is that sense of competition and wanting to be the best.”
What about the rest of the players?
Baird confirmed what Yael Averbuch, co-executive director of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association, told The Athletic on Wednesday. Non-allocated players will receive their full salaries and benefits regardless of whether or not they take part in the Challenge Cup.That agreement was essential in getting the NWSLPA to give the plan its full support.”As the plans for the tournament unfolded, it was our priority as the NWSLPA to protect our players,” Averbuch and co-executive director Brooke Elby said in a statement. “And we feel that NWSL shares those values.”
A defender who is along the league’s all-time appearance leaders, OL Reign’s Lauren Barnes said she felt no pressure to play from either her team or the league.”I’m obviously really excited that we are going to be able to play soccer,” Barnes said. “Given the circumstances of the world right now, obviously it’s going to look different than a normal season, so you can’t really compare it to a normal season. … I think with Reign, they’ve provided and been super transparent and honest with [the medical protocols]. I think pretty much our whole team is on board, and we’re ready to go and excited.”Baird also said she spoke with players in the league who have children and is committed to finding a way to allow those children and a caregiver to be part of the traveling parties in Utah.On the other end of the spectrum, for players who might wish to participate but aren’t in the United States at the moment, Baird said that a recent order from the Department of Homeland Security designating athletes as essential personnel applied to the NWSL. That would allow international players to enter the country despite travel restrictions — OL Reign, for instance, has struggled to get defender Celia Jimenez Delgado back from Spain.The change could notably also affect German captain Dzsenifer Marozsan. The Salt Lake Tribune reported this spring that Marozsan was set to leave European club superpower Lyon for the Utah Royals, along with French national team goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
What will the setup look like in Utah?
Predmore said OL Reign would use charter flights on planes owned by Hansen and that he anticipated multiple teams using that option. But what about once everyone gets to Utah?Expect to hear a lot about village life. Setting up a self-contained environment — the village, as everyone involved keeps calling it — appears central to the league’s plans for hosting around 250 players and accompanying coaches and training staff.Teams will stay in hotels or apartments in the area. Hansen said the league will take over one local hotel that he has equity ownership in for the duration of the tournament. Each team in the hotel will have its own floor, with minimal contact with outside parties (such as housekeeping staff). Other teams will set up in apartments connected to the Real Salt Lake training academy and another in a complex across the street from one of the stadiums.Baird joked about having plenty of toothpaste through a sponsorship with Procter & Gamble (a Bundesliga manager was barred from coaching his team’s first game back when he broke quarantine to obtain toothpaste). But she stopped short of saying players and staff would be definitively restricted to the area created for them or spelling out possible sanctions.”We have thought of all the incidences where a player might need some support that is external to the environment,” Baird said. “So each team is going to have resources available to them to go get supplies. … We want the environment not to feel like a restriction, we want it to feel like a welcoming village where they can focus on what they’re there to do without worrying about other things.”Hansen equated the assistance to team-specific “concierges” and said he had “opened the checkbook” for any needs.”We don’t see this as a restrictive environment,” Hansen said. “We think of it as a very, very energized environment when the players are there, not just hiding out from COVID.”
What about testing?
The league released its medial protocols in conjunction with the tournament announcement.Players will undergo PCR testing for COVID-19 before leaving for Utah and within 24 to 48 hours of games once there. The protocol says that facilities should close immediately if any player or staff member tests positive and contact tracing should commence for anyone present in the facility within 48 hours of the positive test. In Utah, that would cover the entire team.If a game took place within 48 hours before the positive test, the opposing team would also need to conduct contact tracing for its players and staff.The plans then spell out contact tracing protocol for low- and high-risk exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. High-risk contacts, assuming no symptoms develop, would still not be allowed to return to training for 14 days from the date of exposure.”Just as in every other city in the country, with or without soccer, we know for certain that people will test positive for CVID,” said Dr. Daryl Osbahr, a member of the league’s medical task force. “So we knew that we would have to have strategies to build upon that.”Hansen said the tests are sourced from ARUP Laboratories and come from out of state.”We have taken not one test away that would be available to Utahans,” Hansen said.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will return on June 27 with a 25-game tournament near Salt Lake City, the league announced on Wednesday.The start of the NWSL’s eighth season has been on hold since the coronavirus pandemic effectively shut down professional sports in the United States in March. As it stands, the NWSL would be the first U.S. league in a team sport to resume play since that shutdown.
“The United States Women’s National Team Players Association’s (USWNTPA) top priority is player health and safety — both physical and mental,” a USWNTPA statement read.
“The USWNTPA will continue to work with the USSF, the NWSL, and the NWSLPA to minimize the risk of injury and exposure to COVID-19 for those Players participating in the tournament.”The new tournament, which the league is calling the NWSL Challenge Cup, will involve all nine of the league’s teams. Each team will play four games in a preliminary round, with the top eight finishers advancing to a knockout round. The final will be played on July 26.Games will be played at Zions Bank tadium in Herriman, Utah, and Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Rio Tinto Stadium is home to the NWSL’s Utah Royals, as well as the MLS’ Real Salt Lake.
Fans will not be allowed at any of the games.”As our country begins to safely reopen and adjust to our collective new reality, and with the enthusiastic support of our players, owners, as well as our new and current commercial partners, the NWSL is thrilled to bring professional soccer back to the United States,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.The NWSL did not clarify whether the tournament would take the place of the 2020 season or serve as prelude to a modified regular season.Among other questions unanswered is the participation of members of the United States women’s national team. One source close to the national team players confirmed to ESPN multiple reports that there is a lack of unanimity among the players about participating.Possible concerns, especially with the rescheduled Olympics in 2021, include playing a large number of games in a relatively short time after having little access to training for most of the past three months. Some of the games also would be on artificial turf.
“U.S. Soccer is supportive of the NWSL’s decision to bring professional women’s soccer back to the field,” the federation said in a statement. “Throughout the collaborative planning process, U.S. Soccer has worked closely with the NWSL and the USWNT Players Association to focus on the health and safety of the players, both regarding COVID-19 and the physical aspects of the players returning to a preseason and tournament competition, and ensure that each player would have the option of participating in the event.”
U.S. Soccer pays the NWSL salaries of national team players. A source connected with U.S. Soccer told ESPN on Wednesday that those players continue to be paid during the pandemic stoppage and nothing would change on that front, regardless of participation in the NWSL Challenge Cup.The union representing the United States women’s national team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ESPN.The NWSL said Utah Royals and Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen would provide an “NWSL Village” for all teams and be responsible for housing and training needs, although it provided no specifics on procedures such as whether players and staff would be restricted solely to those spaces during the monthlong event.The NWSL said Baird and Hansen met with Utah Governor Gary Herbert and other state and local officials while planning the tournament.“Utah is home to strong health care systems and dedicated medical professionals — and public health and safety are always a top priority for our communities,” Herbert said in a statement. “Because of those factors, I believe our state will be a great location for the National Women’s Soccer League to host its competition in 2020.”Testing protocols state that players will undergo testing for coronavirus before traveling to Utah and within 24-48 hours of games.The protocols also lay out plans for quarantining of anyone who tests positive and contact tracing. Those deemed to have high-risk exposure to anyone who tests positive would be prohibited from training for 14 days. Interactions in the high-risk category include shared equipment or direct physical contact with the individual, contact of more than 10 minutes within 6 feet — including meeting rooms, weight rooms and locker rooms, and living in the same housing unit.
Those deemed to have low-risk contact with anyone who tests positive would also be quarantined but could return to training if they test negative, show no symptoms and their temperature remains normal.Germany’s Bundesliga became the first major professional league in a team sport to return to competition on May 16. The Frauen-Bundesliga, the top women’s professional league in Germany, will also resume its regular schedule this weekend without fans.
USMNT’s Tyler Adams plays first full 90 since February in RB Leipzig draw | Bundesliga Roundup
May 27, 20203:12PM EDTIan QuillenContributor
The Wednesday slate of German Bundesliga games began with Tyler Adams playing his first full 90 in more than three months — and at right back, no less — for the first time since February 9 in 10-man RB Leipzig’s 2-2 home draw with Hertha Berlin.The former New York Red Bulls star Homegrown Player was a late addition to the starting lineup after Kevin Kampl suffered an injury in warmups. Notably, he patrolled the same right defensive position that US national team manager Gregg Berhalter has appeared to favor for the 21-year-old.The match was level when Leipzig’s Marcel Halstenberg was sent off in the 63rd minute. Patrick Schick put Leipzig ahead five minutes later, but Hertha leveled on Krzystof Piatek’s 82nd-minute penalty, dropping Leipzig into third for the moment in the table, two points behind Dortmund and nine back of leaders Bayern Munich.Adams’ US teammate Weston McKennie was in the lineup for Schalke 04 in later action against Fortuna Dusseldorf, which had fellow American Alfredo Morales on the subs’ bench. American No. 1 goalkeeper and former Crew SC man Zack Steffen remained out injured for Dusseldorf.
Yanks in Germany: Chandler’s late equalizer
Chandler & McKennie get on the score sheet during a busy midweek Bundesliga schedule
Weston McKennie – Central Midfielder, Schalke 04
Schalke eventually fell 2-1 at Fortuna Düsseldorf, but McKennie got the scoring started in the 53rd minute with a very nice header. He had the fewest touches, 36, of any outfield player. Watch the goal again below and read more about it HERE.
FotMob: 7.4 | WhoScored: 7.3
59% passing | 1/2 shots on target | 3/8 duels | 0/2 dribbles | 1 clearance | 6 interceptions
Timmy Chandler – Defender, Eintracht Frankfurt
The 30-year-old came off the bench in the 81st minute with his team down a goal and it would only take him three minutes to tie the match at 3-3 and take points from Frieburg. Chandler has five goals and an assist in 17 appearances this season. He had enough time to score but not enough time for FotMob to gather enough info for a rating. WATCH THE GOAL
11 touches | 1/1 shot on target | 7/7 passing | 1/2 crosses | 1 throw in
John Brooks – Central Defender, Wolfsburg
It was a fantastic day for Brooks and Wolfsburg on Tuesday as they got a big 4-1 at Bayer Leverkusen, who are just above them on the Bundesliga table. He was subbed out in the 82nd minute and Leverkusen finally got on the board three minutes later.
FotMob: 7.6 | WhoScored: 7.7
77% passing | 4/6 long balls | 5/8 duels | 1 clearance | 1/1 tackle | 3 interceptions
Tyler Adams – Defensive Midfielder, RB Leipzig
Leipzig settled for a 2-2 draw against Hertha Berlin with Adams playing all 90 minutes. They really could have used some actual home-field advantage because they missed a chance to go level on points with Dortmund for 2nd place. Adams had five tackles, the most in the match.
FotMob: 6.7 | WhoScored: 6.7
93% passing | 1 chance created | 1/5 crosses | 6/11 duels | 1 clearance | 5/5 tackles
Josh Sargent – Striker, Werder Bremen
He got the start and played the first 74 minutes as Bremen drew 0-0 with Gladbach. They will be quite happy with the point that keeps them within striking distance of safety.
FotMob: 5.5 | WhoScored: 6.2
61% passing | 0/1 shot on target | 5/14 duels | dispossessed twice | 1 interception
Gio Reyna – Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund
The youngster entered the match in the 72nd minute as Dortmund searched for the equalizer in Der Klassiker against Bayern Munich, but the match ended 1-0. Great to see the kid get on the field in such a big matchup. I’m sure he’ll never forget the roar of the Yellow Wall that day.
FotMob: 5.6 | WhoScored: 6
15 touches | 13/13 passes | 1/3 duels | 0/1 dribble
Alfredo Morales – Midfielder, Fortuna Düsseldorf
As disappointing as the loss was for Schalke, it was equally big for Düsseldorf who are fighting relegation. Morales subbed in for the last nine minutes to help secure the win.
Timothy Tillman – Midfielder, Greuther Fürth
21-year-old Tillman got the start and played the first half of a 2-0 loss to Osnabrück. He was subbed out for fellow yank, Julian Green.
FotMob: 6 | WhoScored: 6.2
82% passing | 1/2 shots on target | 4/9 duels | 1/1 dribble | 2/2 tackles | dispossessed once
Julian Green – Midfielder, Greuther Fürth
He replaced Tillman at halftime but wasn’t able to contribute much more than getting fouled five times, the most of any player. He also got a yellow card for a bad foul.
FotMob: 6.6 | WhoScored: 6.7
92% passing | 1/3 shots on target | 2 corner kicks | 8/10 duels | 1/2 tackles
The coronavirus pandemic is undoing progress made by women’s soccer in Europe
Women’s professional soccer in Europe, and some of the strides it had made, has now been victimized by the coronavirus pandemic.All 20 Premier League clubs voted on Wednesday to return to full-contact training, reaching another benchmark to get the popular soccer circuit back to competitive games and finish the coronavirus-ravaged 2019-20 season. The teams had been back to practicing in small groups, socially distanced, for a week. And a resumption of the campaign now seems likely in the near future.On Monday, however, it was announced that the Women’s Super League, the highest tier of the women’s game in the United Kingdom, would not be returning this season. “Following overwhelming feedback from the clubs, the decision to bring an end to the 2019-20 season was made in the best interest of the women’s game,” the Football Association said in a statement. “Supporting the welfare of the clubs and players will continue to be our primary concern throughout this process, which also involved a robust and thorough examination of the logistical, operational and financial challenges that the game currently faces.”
Let’s talk about those “logistical, operational and financial challenges.” The first two are no different from the men’s circuit. Those challenges are less daunting than on the women’s side, in fact, since there are fewer teams and the size of the squads and support staff is smaller. As for the financial piece, the reason the WSL was forced to conclude it didn’t have the resources to finish out the season under the necessary precautionary conditions is because the FA had told it two months earlier that it wouldn’t be providing financial support.Manchester City was leading the WSL table but won’t get a chance to finish the season. (Photo by Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)Morhat’s more, out of the 12 WSL teams, nine are the female counterparts of Premier League sides. The other three are tied to second-tier Championship teams. There is money there. Plenty of it. The FA has money. The clubs have money. They’re just choosing not to spend it on the women’s league.
In Spain, La Liga returned to practice last week and is cleared to resume league play as of June 8, with a likely kickoff on June 11. Yet the Primera División, the top women’s circuit, has already been shuttered for the rest of the season, even though there were nine rounds left to play – two fewer than on the men’s side. FC Barcelona Femení was announced as the champion by the Spanish federation. It had a nine-point lead, but there remained 27 points left to be played for.In Italy, Serie A, which was the first league to shut down due to COVID-19 in early March, is slated to return to action on either June 13 or June 20, depending on the conditions. But it looked for a long while like the Serie A Femminile, its female counterpart, would be shutting down because the pandemic-related cost of resuming was several hundred thousand dollars per team. There was an outcry, and the government eventually stepped in. The issue was that the women’s league isn’t technically professional, even though 10 of 12 teams are attached to well-established professional men’s clubs – including the powerhouses Juventus, Milan, Inter, Fiorentina and Roma. The season now looks like it will be saved and some teams have returned to training, but it was a close call.In the four major European pro soccer nations, only Germany will resume its women’s league without significant incident. But it’s worth noting that when the Frauen-Bundesliga kicks off this Friday, it will have done so a full two weeks later than the men’s league.It feels like the pandemic is undoing some of the recent progress in the women’s game. Men’s leagues are resuming largely because it is too costly – both financially and culturally – not to. But why isn’t that true for the women?For decades, the domestic women’s games in those four nations lagged embarrassingly far behind the men’s leagues. While Germany fielded a world power national team and was ahead of Italy, Spain and England in shoring up its domestic women’s league, it still had nothing like the institutional support the men enjoyed. Things were worse elsewhere.Finally, after three impactful and globally popular Women’s World Cups this decade, that was beginning to change. Momentum was building. The leagues gained popularity. A game between Athletic Club and Atletico Madrid in Spain drew more than 48,000 spectators in January 2019. Two months later, a Barcelona-Atletico game pulled in almost 61,000. Last year’s Manchester derby attracted 31,000 people and Chelsea-Tottenham got 24,000. Juventus once attracted 39,000 to watch it play Fiorentina. Those were outliers, certainly, but they weren’t all driven by post-World Cup bumps, either. The audience and interest was and is demonstrable. But for some reason, the willingness on the part of the domestic soccer federations or teams doesn’t match it. There is no good reason to play men’s professional soccer but not women’s, yet in three of Europe’s four biggest pro soccer nations, that will be the case for the rest of this season.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.