NY Fury coach Paul Riley, who led the Philadelphia Independence to two runner-up finishes in WPS, has a few thoughts about the future of the game, and it differs a bit from the Peter Wilt plan – more money, more months in the season:
The money issue is really just a question of what owners are willing to put on the table. If it’s $1.5 million per team, great. If it’s closer to the $300,000 at the low end of Wilt’s range, then that’s what it is.
The more interesting question here is the length of the season. Riley may be overstating things a bit — is Marta really going to get nine months of playing time this season between a 22-game Swedish season and the chronically undersupported Brazilian women’s team? But he’s right that these condensed summer seasons aren’t leaving much time to develop teams … or players.
Riley, like many others in the women’s soccer community, want everyone to get together and talk about it. USSF. USL. WPSL.
When it comes to length of the season, college soccer is the problem. A lot of this country’s top players are still in school. And the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, has pushed its season earlier and earlier into August while cutting the spring season.
That’s a problem — primarily for college players. They could get a compressed four-month college season and perhaps two months to play with a W-League or WPSL team in the summer. That’s a lot of downtime, then a lot of games in a short time — a good recipe for injuries.
Is it a problem for a future elite league? Directly, maybe not. For leagues below Division I — including the regular WPSL and W-League — it’s a problem because college players can’t play for pro teams. The WPSL Elite experiment of having amateur (college players allowed) and pro (NCAA? Stay away!) teams is intriguing. But that means the season’s length is beholden to colleges who won’t release their players until exams are complete and will demand their return in early August.
(This is a problem for men’s soccer, too. Suppose a PDL team made the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in August. Who could play?)
So I’ll toss out a trial balloon here, based on far less research and information than Peter’s plan:
1. Have a national league for full-time pros that splits its season between the fall and spring. Set the championship for late April.
2. Also enter those pro teams in summer regional leagues like the W-League or WPSL. (The leagues could still come together for a national playoff at the end of summer.) With national team call-ups, the pro teams would likely be weakened and would need to call in other players.
3. The pro teams would establish firm roots with youth programs. That would also give them extra players to call in for summer play — we might need an NCAA/amateurism expert to weigh in, but MLS academy kids have been able to compete in MLS reserve league games without sacrificing their college eligibility. So we could see someone like Morgan Andrews “play up” with these teams for the summer. (Current college players, no — they would play for summer-only teams in these regional leagues.)
The other side of the coin — get the NCAA to back off a bit. Beef up the spring season and let them start the fall season a couple of weeks later.
That’s the balloon. Take your shots …