What is Pro-am Women’s Soccer?

Have you heard of pro-am women’s soccer?

Pro-am soccer in the U.S. traditionally fills a place between school/college soccer and the NWSL. Many of the players hope to become full professionals, while others work to improve their skills, play better in their college programs, or keep their athletic lifestyle going. Essentially, it’s a space where professionals and amateurs can mix and play together. Amateurs form the base of the team, but some teams may pay certain players or bring in pros from elsewhere. Once upon a time, the distinction between pro and amateur was important because the Olympics only allowed amateurs to play. 

So what else do you need to know about pro-am women’s soccer?

Who plays for pro-am teams?

Today these teams are largely feeder teams. The teams are comprised of athletes who hope to play in the NWSL and people who want to continue playing soccer after leaving the school setting. Most players are college students, high school seniors, and recent college graduates. Additionally, some pro players may join in, mostly from international teams. 

How do pro-am teams fit into U.S. Soccer?

In the U.S., the NWSL is at the top. Behind that, the WPSL (Women’s Premier Soccer League) and the UWS (United Women’s Soccer) are roughly equal as second tiers. Then you have fully amateur club soccer leagues. 

What is the WPSL?

The WPSL contains 133 clubs and is the largest woman’s soccer league in the world based on number of teams. The league puts a lot of decision-making in the hands of the club. WPSL clubs are often associated with certain soccer training camps or all ages teams, but may be tied to cities, churches, or schools as well. Several teams require fees of different sizes from players. Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain all played in the WPSL, and the league focuses on development of players and teams. They hope to feed players up to the NWSL and international teams. 

What is the UWS?

The UWS is younger and smaller, focusing in the American east and Midwest. Its first league has 30 teams. They’ve also created a lower-tier second league made up of reserve teams and new teams, which can move up into the first league if they play well. The hope of the UWS is to be second to the NWSL and fill the gap between college and professional play. 

Why are there two leagues?

The WPSL was born out of the western division of the older USL W-League in 1997. Fast forward 18 years, and the UWS was formed due to frustration some teams felt with the running of the eastern part of WPSL. The UWS is trying to more clearly make itself  a second division to feed into the NWSL and teams often seek affiliation with a professional team. The WPSL teams also feed into the NWSL, but often are serving other goals as well. 

Are pro-am players paid? 

They can be, but most of the time are not. The decision is up to the individual club. But, if any member of the club is paid, college players lose their eligibility. The NWSL, when created, absorbed most of the players who would be paid.

Feature photo via Facebook @WPSL


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