It’s been a good couple of weeks for the National Women’s Soccer League.
First, on May 11th FC Barcelona revealed their intent to add an NWSL team in 2018.Of course, this is part of Barcelona’s continued efforts to increase their presence in the United States — after opening a New York office in September 2016 and expanding its number of U.S. academies to six — but choosing the NWSL as their second mode of entry is a great sign for the league. Not only is it great to see the league continue to expand, having expanded from eight to nine clubs in its second year and then to 10 in its third, but it is also great to have the NWSL’s growth and the success of women’s soccer in America to be recognized by a foreign powerhouse. As a Barcelona spokesperson told Sport, “In the United States, football is booming, both men’s and women’s.”Just as the addition would help bolster Barcelona’s profile in the U.S., their presence would bolster the league’s. Unsurprisingly, the league was “pleased” to hear of Barcelona’s plans.The team would make Barca the first European club to form a team in the league. Last year City Football Group expressed interest in doing so, but the plan never came to fruition.Incidentally, the move would also mean that Barcelona would have two women’s teams on two different continents while Real Madrid has none — and their Primera División side is currently in 2nd place and has won the league 4 times. It is not hard to imagine a team built by them in America, between the players they could attract with their name and the money they could splash, would not be equally if not more competitive.Then, on May 15, the league’s non-allocated players announced the official formation of an NWSL Players’ Association for non-allocated players, in an effort to “advance continued improvements in women’s soccer.” While the Association isn’t exactly a union — like the U.S. Women’s National Team players, who are paid by the federation, have had for years — it is a big first step to forming one. Currently, the NWSL minimum salary for these players is a mere $15,000, and even that is high compared to what it’s been in the past. Just getting it to that for this season meant doubling last season’s minimum salary. Although the Players Association has announced that their intentions are collaboration and communication with the league front office, an eventual union would allow this conversation to expand to standards for and treatment of non-allocated players. The NWSL has already come a long way since the offseason nerviness, and these two advances are big commitments to even more progress in the future.