Jeff CarlisleAmerican football reporterMay 16, 2023, 08:00 am ETRead 4 minutes

The USL Super League has officially announced the first eight markets that will participate in the inaugural season starting in August 2024.

Markets that include the fledgling women’s league include: Charlotte, NC, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tex

The USL Super League is also seeking Division 1 status from the US Soccer Federation, which is equivalent to the National Women’s Soccer League.

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For USL Super League President Amanda Vandervoort, the creation of the league is about meeting demand. She said there are more than 100 professional men’s teams in the US, but only 12 on the women’s side, leaving plenty of room for the two women’s leagues to co-exist.

“You have 12 professional women’s teams in this country and amazing cities and fans and players who want to be a part of this professional women’s sports movement,” Vandervert told ESPN. “I think that’s what created the opportunity for the Super League right now. We’re ready and we’re excited to create that platform for all those guys.”

The USL is already running a pre-professional women’s league that will begin in 2022 and have 65 teams. The plan is for players from that league to enter the Super League.

“What we’re trying to do is connect talent with opportunity at all stages of the player journey,” Vandervert said. “So that infrastructure is important, but Super League teams are top-level professional teams in their own right.”

Achieving Division 1 sanction is a key pillar of the Super League plan, opening the door to greater sponsorship, media coverage and investment.

Achieving Division I status requires approval from the USSF Board of Directors, which means meeting the USSF’s Professional League Standards (PLS).

Among the requirements for a women’s outdoor league is that the league must have at least eight teams spread across at least two time zones in the league’s first year. At least 75% of the league’s teams must play in metropolitan markets with a minimum attendance of 750,000 and all league stadiums must have a seating capacity of at least 5,000.

Each group ownership group must demonstrate the financial capacity to operate the group for three years, with the principal owner having an individual net worth of $15 million, and the total net worth of the entire ownership group must be at least $25 million.

The implementation of PLS ​​by the USSF has previously been a point of contention. The now-defunct North American Soccer League sued the USSF, arguing that the federation, among other things, changed the PLS to prevent the NASL from attaining Division I status and, in some cases, Division II status. Competing with Major League Soccer.

In this case, the USL Super League competes with the NWSL for marketing, investment, sponsorship dollars and players. There’s also the fact that NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman sits on the USSF board. But Vandervoort expressed confidence that the USL Super League will receive USSF’s blessing.

“When we started this process, we had low stadium capacity, cost of ownership and market size,” Vandervert said. “Everything that is included in the professional league standards and the standards that we have presented are Division I standards on the women’s side. So after talking with our owners and working with the whole team, we are very happy to qualify for these standards. We are confident that we will meet those standards and we are excited to receive the Division I sanction.

Another characteristic of the league is that it follows the international calendar, with the season starting in August with a winter break and ending in June, freeing up players for international duty.

“We’re thinking a lot about that player experience, what it’s like to compete internationally and making sure we’re optimizing and accommodating the challenges there,” she said.

The USL has also partnered with global consulting firm Octagon to manage the media rights sale process, while Legends, a global venue experience firm, announced that it will manage the USL Super League’s commercial interests. Of note, the Legends are majority-owned by Sixth Street, an investment firm that recently acquired the NWSL expansion team in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Some details still need to be fleshed out as the league has yet to hit the ball. Vandervoort declined to say what the expansion fee would be for each team, nor did she say how long the winter break would be. “Our goal is not to have a salary cap,” Vandervert said when asked if the league would implement a player salary cap.

Five other markets – Indianapolis, Ind., Chattanooga, Tenn., Jacksonville, Fla., Madison, Wisc. and Oakland, Calif. — are set to join the league in 2025 if their respective stadium projects come to fruition.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for the women’s game,” said Lindsay Barenz, president of USL Championship side Oakland Roots and WLeague side Oakland Soul, who are aiming to join the USL Super League. “There’s a latent fan desire, a latent player talent. It’s time to give women a chance to fulfill that potential. I’m so happy right now.”

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