WISL blows on to US women’s pro soccer scene promising an open league, meritocrisy and opportunity

September 8 – The Women’s Independent Soccer League (WISL) has applied to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for sanctioning as a Division II women’s professional league with a view to kicking off its inaugural season in 2024.

“WISL is conceived as a bridge between the uniquely American college game and the higher aspirations of literally thousands of soccer-passionate young women,” said WISL managing director Lynn Berling-Manuel in the cover letter to USSF.

“We’re confident that the 2024 WISL season will provide the best professional women’s soccer league experience in the nation for independent clubs.”

The league, if sanctioned, will launch with six community clubs in 2024 with five additional already committed for the full 2025 season.

LA Force, who play in WISA’s sister league, the men’s third-tier NISA league, have been announced they will have a team in 2024. The four other founding teams will also come from NISA’s men’s league teams, thought their identities have not been made public.

WISL (pronounced ‘whistle’) is being built around a non-franchise model where independent community clubs are members (rather than franchise holders).

The leagues says it will bring a “radically different” structure to the US. “Our league will be governed by our clubs. We will not have franchises, franchise fees, nor territory rights. Instead, we will operate as an open system where opportunity is for everyone,” says the league on its website.

“We will not have franchises, franchise fees, nor territory rights. Instead, we will operate as an open system where opportunity is for everyone.”

Championing the league as an “equality project”, the league says: “Our empowering leadership culture will champion meritocracy, diversity, and opportunity as our standards.”

“Out leadership culture will be a beacon for developing healthy mindsets, experiences, and infrastructure. It will be a haven for elevating the greatest generation of female athletes and leaders the world has ever seen… on and off the pitch.”

Berling-Manuel said the league’s goal is to “build partnerships and synergies both ‘above’ and ‘below’ Division 2 that allow us to play above our weight”.

The aim is “not to compete with others doing important work in our game.”

The league said that its philosophy is built around three big, cultural ideas:

  • Creating more professional opportunities for more women, on the field, on the touchline, in the front office, and in the owner’s box.
  • Providing a safe, inclusive, positive culture is a powerful and necessary foundation for a successful professional women’s soccer league at any level.
  • Investing in developing an opportunity pipeline that can offer a return worthy of the intense, sustained effort a Division II women’s professional league requires.

Berling-Manuel closes her letter to the USSF saying: “WISL is here to help fulfill the dreams of those thousands of young women who may not have been plugged into the USWNT pathway. They may be the late bloomers or didn’t have the money or parental support to get on that path. WISL may help develop them for bigger soccer opportunities on the field and off or it may be the chance for an extraordinary first job out of college that lets them try on the professional soccer experience before proceeding with the rest of their professional life.

“Regardless, it brings a professional club in the European tradition to more communities across the nation.”

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