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AfXI link roundup: NWSL to return to play with summer tournament?

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Chelsea v Arsenal - FA Women’s Continental League Cup Final Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The FA WSL and NWSL appear to be taking very different approaches to the prospect of restarting play when governments determine that Covid-19 is under control enough for them to do so. FA WSL clubs expect their season to be cancelled, while NWSL is gearing up for a shortened season in a central location.

According to Steven Goff of the Washington Post, NWSL is in the late stages of planning a one-month tournament that would take place in Utah, where there is sufficient housing and training facilities for all teams. Details have yet to be finalized, and players still have to be convinced that the event is both safe and in their best interests. The event is currently planned to start during the last week of June and run through July.

Part of these different strategies has to do with where the leagues are in their seasons. WSL is two-thirds complete, with the next campaign previously scheduled to start in September, so players aren’t thrilled about the idea of going through two preseason training regimens in three months. NWSL’s season hasn’t started, so it can get more creative about what its season will look like, and players wouldn’t report for the next preseason until March 2021.

But a bigger reason behind the differences in approach is probably down to each league’s strategy.

Bolstered by century-old legacy brands and the backing of billion pound men’s clubs, WSL is content with steady, sustained growth. No one is going to forget about the existence of Arsenal, and clubs’ currently perilous financial situations will be remedied if the current men’s season is completed and a start date can be set for the full 2020-21 campaign. WSL feels it can afford to be patient.

NWSL, on the other hand, was expecting to make aggressive moves this year. The league hired a new commissioner and signed fresh media rights deals with CBS and Twitch. One expansion team in Louisville has been announced for 2021, and more expansion announcements were expected to be forthcoming before the pandemic started. Sky Blue FC had just moved into Red Bull Arena, and the Washington Spirit doubled the number of games it plays at Audi Field. The league was ready to capitalize on the success of the United States women’s national team and the resulting attendance bump to close last season.

And unlike its competitors in England, NWSL does not have big legacy brands to rely on. The league’s oldest team — the Chicago Red Stars — was founded in 2006, and just started to gain significant traction in its local market last season. Every team has a loyal, hardcore base, but faces a difficult fight for attention from the casual, general sports audience. The league clearly feels a need to remind everyone that it exists, and to grab some media spotlight with a shortened season if it is safe to do so.

-Kim McCauley


Links

WSL players have mentally ‘checked out’ and want season to end, says agent | Suzanne Wrack, The Guardian

Trinity Rodman is making her own way in soccer, finding success with the USYNT | Pablo Maurer, The Athletic

UEFA plan: How could it affect Arsenal? | Anthony Stonelake, Her Football Hub

Introducing the 2020 Thorns kits | @ThornsFC

Steph’s self-care moment of the week

I’m desperately trying to eat better in quarantine. Some weeks I’ll be like screw it and I’ll have a takeout from a local place or buy my favorite chips. Most of the time I’m trying to eat vegetables some way, some how, without getting sick of my own cooking. My latest attempt to make veggies differently is Korean street toast - you might have seen this on Youtube somewhere, or maybe even sampled something like Isaac’s Toast in South Korea. Anyway, it’s a low-maintenance meal that gets something green into my body. Basically, add an egg to some shredded cabbage, fry it up in a square, and slap that baby on some bread. Here’s everyone’s Korean mom, Maangchi, to explain the actual right way to do it (ketchup and sugar optional):

Community question: What do you think of the Thorns home kit?

I’ve never seen opinion so divided on a kit, which I think is a good thing for NWSL. If you’re an upstart league trying to make a name for yourself, you can’t be boring. Releasing a kit that sparks serious debate can only be good for your brand, assuming it’s at least half positive. So I have some questions for y’all about this:

Do you like it? Is it innovative, or too busy? Do you like shirts like this, or prefer simple ones? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.