The USL announces a new Super League to begin in 2024
The GIST: There’s a new
kid pro women’s soccer league on the block. Yesterday, the USL Super League announced its intention to apply for Division I status, meaning it could become a domestic rival to the NWSL when play begins in 2024.
The landscape: The Super League is one of two women’s soccer leagues under the USL’s umbrella, which also includes several lower-tier men’s leagues. It was expected to apply for Division II status and serve as a semi-pro league like its male equivalent, the USL Championship, but instead opted for full professional status.
The details: Eight markets are already booked for the Super League’s 2024 debut — Charlotte, Dallas–Fort Worth, Lexington, Phoenix, Spokane, Tampa Bay, Tucson, and Washington, D.C. (a team backed by MLS’ D.C. United). The league hopes to add up to four more clubs to the list for its inaugural season.
- The league will operate on international soccer’s typical fall-to-spring calendar, won’t stage a draft, and plans to offer competitive salaries. It has also hired Octagon, Sportfive, and Legends to handle media rights and partnerships.
- Five more cities are earmarked for future Super League teams — Chattanooga, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (co-owned by Tim Tebow), Madison, and Oakland. They mean business.
The why: President Amanda Vandevoort believes the U.S. is big enough to support two women’s soccer leagues, and the USL’s pre-professional W-League proves the demand is there. W-League teams in Minnesota, Oakland, and Detroit attracted comparable crowds to the NWSL’s NC Courage, NJ/NY Gotham FC, and Orlando Pride last year.
- It also has USL backing, which has successfully developed impressive followings in small but mighty markets for a handful of men’s teams like New Mexico United and Sacramento Republic FC.
Zooming out: As we covered in April’s Sports Biz Breakfast, capitalizing on local fervor remains an area of improvement for pro women’s sports leagues and might be the Super League’s first avenue for success. The league could also be a destination for investors who may feel priced out as NWSL entry fees surpass $50M.
- It’s unclear if the Super League and the NWSL will compete for similar audiences, with the latter playing it cool so far — an NWSL spokesperson said it welcomes “more opportunities for women to play professional soccer in the United States.” Preach.