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NWSL: Allocation Leaves Some Teams Wanting

posted by Sarah Hallett, a Women Talk Sports blogger
Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8:34pm EST

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January 12, 2012-With the launching of the new National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) only a few months away, yesterday brought some of the most interesting news since the league was announced. The eight teams slated to debut in the third go-around of a women's professional league were allocated 55 players that will be subsidized by the national teams of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In an effort spearheaded by U.S. Soccer, these 55 players who are the faces of their sport in their own countries will have their salaries covered in efforts to ease the financial burden of the new league. Yesterday we finally found out which teams these players will be playing for. 

The balance of power was no doubt sought out by the executive committee who dispersed the various players but it is clear that a few of the teams will already have an uphill battle when it comes to marketing their team. 

Let's start with the Portland Thorns FC who cleaned up by snatching perhaps the most marketable player in the U.S. in Alex Morgan. She will be joined by University of Portland alum and star of the Canadian National team Christine Sinclair. Tobin Heath and Rachel Buehler add to the wealth, as this team will undoubtedly be favored at the start of the season. More importantly owner Merritt Paulson should have no trouble adding to his already fast selling season ticket sales and Portland, which is already a hot spot for soccer, should be able to pack out their games. 

Seattle Reign FC also scored high by claiming hometown girl Hope Solo, Amy Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe, who is currently under contract with the French club Lyon until the end of their Champion League season in May, had initially expressed strong interest in playing in Portland where she is also an alumni of the University of Portland. Seattle was most likely her second choice, which will keep her on the west coast and gives this normally dreary city plenty of reasons to smile. Seattle will have two of the most high profile personalities on their squad and should be able to profit from it.

Boston Breakers will have one of the rising stars from the U.S. national team in Sydney Leroux and it should be pretty easy to build some interest around her. She is an electric player on the field and this league will give her a chance to show off her talents for more than the 15 minutes she is accustomed to with the national team. Heather O'Reilly and Heather Mitts are also well known veteran players and fill out the other two spots allocated from the U.S. national team.

Things get a little trickier for the remaining clubs. Western NY Flash is no doubt rejoicing over their pickup of Abby Wambach who is from Rochester and may go down as the best player in the history of women's soccer. However they were only given one other member of the U.S. national team in Carli Lloyd. It will be interesting to see if Wambach's popularity is enough to bring out fans in one of the more rural areas that will feature a team. 

Washington Spirit will see some familiar faces in Ali Krieger and Lori Lindsey. Ashlyn Harris will also add to the roster and be able to build up her goalkeeping minutes while playing for this Washington D.C. based team. Their northern neighbor in New Jersey will feature Christie Rampone, Kelley O'Hara and Jill Lloyden as members of the Sky Blue FC. Rampone is widely beloved in her home state of New Jersey but at 37 years of age she is closer to the end of her career than the beginning. 

Chicago Red Stars will feature Shannon Boxx, Amy LePeilbet and Keelin Winters. While the last club FC Kansas City has Becky Sauerbrunn, Lauren Cheney and Nicole Barnhart. All excellent players in their own right but from a marketing standpoint it will be a tougher road for these teams. 

January 18th in Indianapolis will be when the college draft takes place, which should add some firepower to some of these teams. And there is also still free agency, which needs to take place in the coming weeks. This will involve players that played in the WPS but are not currently on the national team.

U.S. Soccer has expressed since they announced their intention for a new league last summer that their goals are modest. They are not looking to sell out large stadiums but rather are hoping to build strong fan bases that will allow for expansion as the league hopefully progresses. Management of the individual clubs will be essential if this league is going to expand and grow. But the bottom line is that these teams need to make money. Hopefully though with the financial assistance of the three national teams this league will be given a cushion in order to build a fan base. And then perhaps even the teams that don't feature some of the biggest names in soccer will still have a chance to shine. 

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