The Differences Between the FA WSL and the NWSL

Women’s football is only getting bigger, even though the women’s game continues to fight discrimination at every level. At the forefront of the growing sport are two professional leagues: the FA WSL and the NWSL. As the FA WSL gains prominence, fans of women’s soccer may be left wondering which league is really the best in the world, the FA WSL or the NWSL?

The Case for the NWSL

The NWSL has set the standard for the women’s game since 2013 as arguably the world’s most competitive league. With the help of the USWNT, women’s soccer in the US has garnered a ton of support – a support that has largely been unrivaled. NWSL clubs feature some of the best players from colleges through the annual draft and from around the world, but these elite athletes are still not treated as professionals.

Many clubs do not have the revenue to support their players on and off the field, leading many players to take their talents overseas. Notably, in 2021, Catarina Macario cited Lyon’s facilities and star players as the driving force behind her decision to go abroad rather than to the NWSL.

Despite the league’s shortcomings, the NWSL is taking big steps towards becoming a more respected professional league. After being the first professional league to successfully return to play after the COVID-19 outbreak, the NWSL has proven they’re serious about changing the minds of US sports fans. Even though stars like Samantha Mewis, Rose Lavelle, Tobin Heath, and Christen Press have taken their talents overseas, the NWSL is gearing up for a bright future.

In a January 2021 press conference, NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird revealed some exciting aspects about the league’s promising future. Namely, the league’s continued expansion in 2022 with a team in Sacramento, the USSF no longer managing the league, and the league’s continued investment in improving facilities and resources across the board.

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The case for the FA WSL

The FA WSL prides itself on the beautiful game and treating its players as true professionals. The teams in the FA WSL are able to pay their athletes significantly more than the NWSL, as the league doesn’t operate under salary caps. Instead, they’re free to spend based on their club’s resources and revenue. Many clubs are supported financially by their counterparts in the men’s game, which means the resources at their disposal are not insignificant.

While the issues of equality and fair pay are pervasive around the world, the U.S. continues to be behind the fold in what it offers its female athletes. Need evidence? Look no further than the England FA awarding their women’s team equal pay – a war the USWNT is still battling.

So, what separates the FA WSL from the NWSL? England’s history of soccer is long and storied. The game is simply bigger there than it is in the US, which means their women’s teams have a bit more support than the NWSL’s. While the NWSL has really just one team that can continuously draw big crowds, the Portland Thorns, the FA WSL saw attendance reach staggering numbers in 2020

The women’s game is definitely a work in progress all over the world, but between the top two leagues in the world, expect significant growth in the coming years.

Featured Image via Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images



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