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The NWSL Is the New Normal in the United States

The National Women's Soccer League is nearly here, and as Maura Gladys writes, it's starting to feel very real. Before the ladies can hit the field, however, there's some unfinished business to attack.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
January 16, 2013
7:33 AM
We’re sandwiched in between two of the more notable off-season milestones: Last week’s national teams allocation announcement and this week’s college draft. Once the draft is over, each team will have 11 roster spots filled (10 for the Western New York Flash.) That’s more than 50 percent of each roster, and more than we have ever known about the NWSL.

It feels weird. To have gone so long, scraping and yearning for information, speculating about what the league might look like, to now be in the midst of information overload. To be on a (rough) schedule. To know things are coming. To have things to look forward to.

That simple idea is a victory for the NWSL. There are measurements of success for this league, both big and small. Passing the three-season mark that has yet to be eclipsed by a women’s soccer league in the United States. Boosting attendance numbers in each city. Raising the national profile of women’s soccer. But, the idea of being able to count on women’s soccer every week is important. The anticipation and excitement of these two weeks may just be a small sample of what the NWSL can bring. There is still plenty of waiting ahead and another dormant period until the league officially kicks off in April, but, finally, there’s something real and something concrete surrounding this league to believe in.

There are still some things that we don’t know. Like which players have entered the NWSL Draft. Or the draft order. Regardless, the draft will go off on Friday at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention in Indianapolis. Each team will select four players to bolster their core group of seven allocated players and potentially groom future USWNT stars.

We do know that there will be some promising young talent up for grabs. The biggest names are Christine Nairn, Kristen Mewis, and Adrianna Franch. Nairn was a standout at Penn State, leading the Nittany Lions to the national championship game, while Mewis led Boston College with 16 goals and 12 assists. Franch, a three-time All American at Oklahoma State, is the best goalkeeper in the draft. It will be especially interesting to see what team (if any) drafts Amber Brooks, who just signed a contract with Bayern Munich through May. Unlike Megan Rapinoe, who also just jumped to the continent, Brooks is under no obligation to return to the NWSL after her six month contract in Germany is up. But because we don’t know who has applied for the draft, we don’t know if Brooks is even in the mix. An interview with The Women’s Game magazine seems to allude to her staying in Germany.

“It wasn’t so much choosing the Bundesliga over NWSL as it was choosing the right team in a competitive league that I could play in right away,” said Brooks. “Once WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) folded last year I had set my sights on playing overseas and I always wanted to experience European “football,” she told the publication. Specifically, Bayern Munich has an excellent tradition and the club is supportive of the women’s team as well.”

Despite the lack of information regarding the details of the draft, there is plenty of analysis available, including this exhaustive look at the top 280 players who could fill the draft’s 32 slots. While the draft details might still be a little muddy, there’s something else NWSL fans can count on: familiar faces. Whether it’s an intentional message or not, the theme of coming home to something familiar has been bleeding strongly into all franchises since the allocation announcement. Each team has at least one allocated player with intense ties to the area, and they have been broadcasting that fact. From Abby Wambach to Heather O’Reilly to Ali Krieger, players are returning to a place and a group of people that are personally significant. That goes beyond a publicity or marketing stunt. Those home ties represent a vested interest in each franchise, a boost of confidence for each city and the league as a whole.

“For me coming back to Rochester to play and to be living in Buffalo playing for the Western New York Flash is a dream come true,” Abby Wambach said. “(It) may not have been geographically my No. 1 choice, but it was the right choice for me and the league.”

We don’t know how many days are left until the league has it’s first official game. Or what teams will be playing. But, this flood of information, combined with a newfound rhythm has made women’s soccer in the United States feel normal, real and exciting.

Maura Gladys, a featured ASN columnist, works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

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