As women's soccer grows more in the United States, a new league plans its emergence.
United Soccer League, which operates several lower-division competitions in the United States and Canada, announced the planned launch of new women's league, the USL Super League, in August 2024. Unlike USL's other organizations, this one will play at the highest division of professional soccer in the United States alongside the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL).
“Our aim is to make the USL Super League globally recognized and admired for its financial stability, operational excellence, community building and high-level competition," USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. "We are establishing and growing our national footprint while ensuring that all our teams are owners or primary tenants of a soccer stadium. We are aligning our calendar and roster rules with the global game.
The league still needs approval from U.S. Soccer, the sport's domestic governing body. A pro league sanctioned by U.S. Soccer must check off a number of standards, such as a minimum of eight teams in the first year (75% of which must be based in the U.S and play in metropolitan markets of at least 1 million people), stadiums that seat at least 15,000 people and one principal owner per team with a net worth of at least $40 million.
Although the new league would become the second Division I women's competition in the U.S., it wouldn't directly compete with the NWSL because of scheduling differences The USL Super League games will be played from the fall to the summer, while the NWSL plays from the spring to the fall.
“We welcome more opportunities for women to play professional soccer in the United States," an NWSL spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
USL Super League team sites
USL plans to open with 10-12 teams for the league's inaugural season. Cities that will already have teams include Charlotte (N.C.), Dallas/Fort Worth, Lexington (Kent.), Phoenix, Spokane (Wash.), Tampa Bay and Washington, D.C.
Other potential cities include Chattanooga (Tenn.), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Madison (Wisc.) and Oakland.
Women's soccer popularity is on the rise
Popularity-wise, the league drew a record 915,000 viewers for its 2022 title game on CBS between Portland Thorns FC and Kansas City Current — a 71% bump from the previous season's championship game. The NWSL is reportedly listening to other offers for its television rights with the league's current deal with CBS set to expire. A match between San Diego Wave FC and expansion team Angel City FC drew a league-record 32,000 live fans as well.
This is the type of exposure the USL Super League hopes to achieve in its inaugural season.
The league announced it's working with the consulting company Octagon to manage its media rights sales as well as the experiences company Legends for its partnership sales. Legends' other clients include global soccer brands like FC Barcelona, Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, Real Madrid CF and U.S. Soccer.