I don’t know which is more troubling: The appalling playing and travel conditions that Hope Solo documented in her viral blog post about the National Women’s Soccer League; or what those conditions say about the state of women’s soccer in America.
I had four thoughts after reading what Solo wrote and seeing the photos she posted:
He said these things even as he fought the efforts of the U.S. women’s team to secure better pay and a more equitable contract, even as he stood mute while women from the United States and elsewhere fought in vain against the use of plastic playing fields at the 2015 World Cup.
After seeing Solo’s visual proof of conditions in the National Women’s Soccer League, I will never again trust anything Sunil Gulati says.
(To be honest, I never completely trusted him before. Gulati, a member of FIFA’s executive committee since 2013, took his sweet time to publicly distance himself from Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s former criminal in chief.)
Jeff Plush, the empty suit installed by Gulati as NWSL commissioner, is as much a sports commissioner as Barney Fife was a law enforcement official.
Consider his forceful leadership (Plush’s, not Barney Fife’s) when one of his league’s franchises, the Western New York Flash, moved a game to a completely unsuitable field — in the outfield of a minor league baseball stadium — because its regular home field was being used for a ’90s throwback concert.
The NWSL is circling the drain.
The conditions described by Solo confirm what most followers have long suspected: That while a couple of franchises are doing well, the league overall is hobbled by unprofessional owners, sickly balance sheets, and poor cash flow.
The league has no marketing strategy or budget, virtually no TV exposure (games are carried on YouTube), and meager attendance.
However much U.S. Soccer would like to keep the NWSL afloat, if only as a gesture of support for the women’s game, no league can survive if its teams can’t afford first-aid supplies and are cheating players out of their meal money.
However dreadful things are for women’s soccer in the United States, they are surely far worse in most of the world’s other countries.