The National Women's Soccer League: Towards the Successful Professionalization of Women's Soccer?
The sport of soccer (more commonly known as "football" outside North America) has long been a predominantly men's game: men's clubs on every continent generate huge revenues and the FIFA World Cup is the most popular and profitable sporting event on the planet. Slowly but surely, however, women's soccer is starting to emerge from the long shadow cast by its male counterpart. In 2016, for example, 70,454 spectators gathered at Rio's Maracana stadium to watch a women's soccer semi-final between Sweden and Brazil. The previous year, 53,341 spectators attended the final of the 7th FIFA Women's World Cup at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada. And now, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), founded in the United States in 2013, is attempting to prove that a national women's professional league can be profitable. In short, all the stars seem to be aligned for the professionalization of women's soccer, i.e., the organizational transformation familiar to the federations, clubs, national teams, and other organizations that make up the core of this truly global sport. The case examines the history, issues, and challenges faced by attempts on American soil to carve out a place for women at the highest levels of the world's most practised sport.