January 12 2013
NWSL balances team, player needs in allocating national teamers
By Charles Cuttone
|Abby Wambach is headed back to her hometown of Rochester for the first NWSL season.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Friday's allocation of 55 players to the teams in the National Women's Soccer League was just the first step in the process of stocking the new league's eight teams, but one that was perhaps fraught with more twists and turns in the process than conducting a draft.
Teams had preferences as to what players they wanted, players had preferences as to where they wanted to play, and with only 23 U.S. National Team Players in the pool, one team was going to get shorted (WNY Flash).
“It was a very challenging endeavor to be able to put together all of everybody’s requests," said Cheryl Bailey, Executive Director of the NWSL. "But that’s what the job entails. It’s exciting to take a look at the preferences for players and teams while balancing strengths and positions. It’s something that’s extremely important to make sure we have diversity and strength for teams to build a nucleus to work around. It is a give and take that shifted throughout the process.”
A number of U.S. players wound up in markets that were a natural fit. New Jersey native Christie Rampone was allocated to Sky Blue, Hope Solo was allocated to the Seattle Reign, near her hometown of Richland, Wash., Heather O'Reilly landed with the Boston Breakers, near where her husband is studying at Harvard, and FIFA World Player of the Year Abby Wambach wound up with the Flash, who play in her hometown of Rochester, NY.
“The first criteria was the preference of the players, and Abby is very fond of her hometown," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati of Wambach landing with the Flash. "I don't need to say much more than that. She loves where she grew up, loves playing there and is very much looking forward to going back there. The very strong preference from the team and the player, in this case, made that one easy.”
The allocation process was conducted with assistance from a panel of experts familiar with the player pools, including individuals from the collegiate level, recent professional and semi-professional clubs, and the youth and senior national team level in North America.
The allocation was conducted even though U.S. Soccer does not at the moment have a finalized agreement with the Women's National Team Players.
"They have been extraordinarily positive in trying to move this along. We are not done with all the t's and i's in our agreements with them, but they understand how important it is to keep the ball moving forward," said Gulati.
U.S. Soccer is subsidizing the salaries of the 23 American players, while the Canadian Soccer Association and the Federation of Mexican Football each will do the same for 16 players.
The second phase of stocking teams will be conducted next Friday, with a college draft that will be held in Indianapolis in conjunction with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention.
How other players may be signed has not been determined yet.
“There are no free agents or discovery players or anything like that who have been signed," said Gulati. "We’ll talk about that more next week prior to the college draft. We'll do this in three pieces. These are the first seven. The college draft is one and the distribution of other non-allocated players and college players will happen in the next several weeks. We’ll announce the rules for that. No other players have been signed at this stage.”
Much of the other groundwork for the league is being done on the fly. Other than setting the number of players per team at 20, the league has not decided how many internationals per team. The first draft of the schedule is not expected for several weeks. The league is planning to kick off in April.