|Founded||November 21, 2012|
|Confederation||CONCACAF (North America)|
|Number of teams||10|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|League cup(s)||NWSL Challenge Cup|
|Current champions||North Carolina Courage (2nd title) |
|Current NWSL Shield||North Carolina Courage (3rd shield) |
|Most championships||FC Kansas City |
North Carolina Courage
Portland Thorns FC (2 titles)
|Most NWSL Shields||North Carolina Courage (3 shields)|
|TV partners||CBS Sports and Twitch|
|Current: 2021 NWSL season|
The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is a professional women's soccer league at the top of the United States league system. It is owned by the teams and, until 2020, was under a management contract with the United States Soccer Federation.
The NWSL was established in 2012 as the successor to Women's Professional Soccer (2007–2012), which was itself the successor to Women's United Soccer Association (2001–2003). The league began play in 2013 with eight teams, four of which were former members of Women's Professional Soccer (Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, and Western New York Flash). It now has 10 teams across the United States.
Since the league's inaugural season in 2013, four teams have been crowned NWSL Champions, awarded to the playoff winner; four teams have claimed the NWSL Shield, awarded to the team in first place at the end of the regular season; and two teams have been champions of the NWSL Challenge Cup, an annual tournament that began in 2020. The current (2019) NWSL champions are the North Carolina Courage. The current shield winners (2019) are also the Courage, who are the only team to date to claim both the NWSL Championship and the NWSL Shield in the same season; they did this in both 2018 and 2019. The Portland Thorns are the current (2021) Challenge Cup champions.
The NWSL season runs from April to November, with each team scheduled for 24 regular-season games (12 home and 12 road games). At the end of the regular season, the team with the highest point total is awarded the NWSL Shield. The six teams with the most points from the regular season qualify for the playoffs, with the top two teams receiving a first-round bye; the higher-seeded teams would host single knockout matches, with the semifinal winners advancing to the championship final played at a predetermined site.
The current competition format will begin in the 2021 season. Prior to 2021, the playoffs included only four teams. The number of regular-season matches had also fluctuated between 20 and 24 in past seasons.
In 2020, the league suspended the season before it started because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Resumption of play began with the NWSL Challenge Cup, a tournament with a group stage followed by knockout rounds. Its success led the NWSL to make it an annual event.
After Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) officially folded in April 2012, the United States Soccer Federation (US Soccer) announced a roundtable for discussion of the future of women's professional soccer in the United States. The meeting, which included representatives from US Soccer, WPS teams, the W-League (ceased operation in 2015), and the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), was held in June. By November, after much discussion, owners from the Chicago Red Stars, Boston Breakers and US Soccer recruited an additional six teams. Compared to WPS, the teams would intentionally operate at a lower cost structure and manage growth in a sustainable way.
In November 2012, it was announced that there would be eight teams in a new women's professional soccer league that was yet to be named at the time of the announcement, with national team players subsidized by US Soccer, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). The three federations would pay for the salaries of their national team players (24 from the US, 16 from Canada, and 12 to 16 from Mexico) to aid the teams in creating world-class rosters while staying under the salary cap. The players would be distributed evenly (as possible) among the eight teams in an allocation process. The teams would own the league, and the league would contract US Soccer to manage league operations. After the 2020 season, the league terminated its management contract with US Soccer.
On November 29, 2012, it was announced that Cheryl Bailey had been named executive director in the new league. Bailey had previously served as general manager of the United States women's national soccer team from 2007 to 2011, which included leading the support staff for the U.S. team during the 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cups, as well as the 2008 Summer Olympics. During her tenure with the women's national team, she was in charge of all areas of administration including interfacing with clubs, team travel, payroll, and working with FIFA, CONCACAF, and other federations.
The first NWSL game was held on April 13, 2013, as the Portland Thorns visited FC Kansas City, playing to a 1–1 draw in front of a crowd of 6,784 fans at Shawnee Mission District Stadium. Renae Cuellar scored the first goal in league history. The 2013 season saw regular-season attendance average of 4,270, with a high of 17,619 on August 4 for Kansas City at Portland.
The NWSL became the first U.S. professional women's soccer league to reach nine teams with the addition of Houston Dash, backed by Major League Soccer (MLS) team Houston Dynamo, in 2014; expansion interest, particularly from MLS and USL teams, has continued. The third season saw a shortened schedule and some early-season roster instability due to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, but the World Cup also provided exposure to the NWSL, which was credited with boosting attendance numbers across the league.
The league also became the first professional women's league in the US to play more than three seasons when the league kicked off its fourth season in 2016.
The 2020 season was initially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and replaced with the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, a special competition hosted in the Salt Lake City region with no spectators. The cup began in late June, making the NWSL the first major U.S. team sports league to return to play. The league was the recipient of a federal loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, which it used to compensate players before the competition was able to begin.
10 NWSL teams are spread across the United States, with two more joining in 2022. Each club is allowed a minimum of 20 players on their roster, with a maximum of 22 players (26 including supplemental players) allowed at any time during the season.
Originally, each team's roster included up to three allocated American national team players, up to two allocated Mexico women's national team players, and up to two allocated Canadian national team players via the NWSL Player Allocation and subsequent trades. In addition, each team has four spots each season available for international players; these spots may be traded to other teams. The remaining roster spots must be filled by domestic players from the United States. Teams fill their rosters via a number of drafts and 4–6 discovery player signings. Mexico no longer allocates players to the NWSL, having established its own women's league in 2017, and the numbers of allocated players and international players on each team vary each year due to trades.
Of the 10 teams playing in the 2021 season, three are affiliated with men's Major League Soccer teams, two are affiliated with men's teams of the United Soccer League, one is affiliated with a French Ligue 1 team (as well as its women's counterpart in the Division 1 Féminine), and four are independent.
|Team||Location||Stadium||Capacity||Founded||Joining||Head coach||Men's affiliate|
|Angel City FC||Los Angeles, California||Banc of California Stadium||22,000||2020||2022||TBA||—|
|San Diego NWSL team||San Diego, California||Torero Stadium||6,000||2021||2022||TBA||—|
- All listed capacities are full capacities unless otherwise noted and do not reflect potential COVID-19 restrictions.
- BBVA Stadium has a capacity of 22,039 but seating is restricted to 7,000 for Dash games.
- Gotham FC is playing its home games in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup on the campus of Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey.
- Full capacity includes safe standing area for supporters' groups; seated capacity is 11,700.
- In 2021, the Spirit plan to play seven games at Audi Field and five games at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia.
- Boston Breakers – 2013–2017 (NWSL franchise ceased operations)
- FC Kansas City – 2013–2017 (NWSL franchise ceased operations after its membership interest was acquired by the league; its player-related assets were transferred to the expansion team Utah Royals FC)
- Utah Royals FC – 2018–2020 (NWSL franchise ceased operations after its membership interest was acquired by the league, but whoever purchases the remaining assets of Utah Soccer LLC will have the option of re-establishing the Royals in 2023; the franchise's player-related assets were transferred to the expansion Kansas City NWSL team)
- Western New York Flash – 2013–2016 (NWSL franchise was sold to North Carolina FC and relocated as North Carolina Courage; the Flash subsequently played two seasons in the second-division United Women's Soccer before reverting to a youth club)
Soon after launch, the league reportedly planned to expand to ten teams for 2014. Potential candidates included groups not accepted as part of the original eight; groups from the Los Angeles area (joint effort from the LA Strikers and Pali Blues) and from Hartford, Connecticut, were confirmed failed bids, as was one from the Seattle Sounders Women. There was speculation that the Vancouver Whitecaps Women could be logical candidates especially given the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada; however, the Whitecaps shuttered their women's program (except for one U-18 academy team) in December 2012.
During the inaugural season, there were rumors of expansion interest from MLS teams Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and the New York Red Bulls, as well as confirmed interest from WPSL side the Houston Aces. NWSL team owners hinted that expansion for 2014 was not a question of "if" but "how many". Despite this, it was announced during the playoffs that there would be no expansion for the league's second season, though the Red Bulls and Sky Blue FC confirmed that they were in discussions for cooperation.
During the first offseason, the Houston Dynamo added their name to the list of MLS teams interested in fielding a women's side, stating that they were "exploring the opportunity" of starting an NWSL side in 2014 or '15 and in 2013 they announced the Houston Dash with 2014 as their inaugural season. By early December, NWSL approved a new team run by the Dynamo organization for expansion in 2014, despite their earlier statement that there would be no expansion for the league's second season.
During the second offseason, expansion talk grew rapidly, with three established men's teams (Real Salt Lake of MLS, the Indy Eleven of NASL, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL Pro) expressing interest in joining NWSL, as well as an unattached group from Atlanta. There was also rumored or suggested interest from three men's teams in California, though none of those groups made official statements. Despite this interest, it was announced in late April 2015 that there would be no expansion for the 2016 season.
However, after the well-publicized success of the US Women's National soccer team, renewed interest in NWSL expansion caused reports from the owners' meeting that "a new team in 2016 has not been ruled out", with potential expansion news to be revealed within a month. Commissioner Jeff Plush said that over a dozen interested groups had contacted the league in the post-World-Cup weeks; MLS team Orlando City SC was one of the first newly interested groups made public. On October 20, 2015, it was announced that Orlando would be hosting the 10th NWSL team, the Orlando Pride, due to start the 2016 season. At that announcement, the Pride announced that they had hired former U.S. National Women's Team coach Tom Sermanni.
On November 16, 2017, it was announced that Real Salt Lake would expand into the NWSL beginning in the 2018 season. The Salt Lake City team, shortly thereafter unveiled as Utah Royals FC, is officially considered a new franchise that replaced FC Kansas City. There were hopes but no plans for Sporting Kansas City to take over operations of FCKC, but Sporting KC was focused on sustainability with its United Soccer League reserve team, then known as Swope Park Rangers and now as Sporting Kansas City II.
The NWSL announced on October 22, 2019 that a team in Louisville, Kentucky, affiliated with the city's USL Championship side Louisville City FC, would join the league in 2021. The team was originally to be named Proof Louisville FC, but after significant disapproval from fans it was announced that the Proof Louisville FC branding would not necessarily be the final selection, and that the process to determine the team's identity would be restarted. On July 8, 2020, the Louisville team was rebranded as Racing Louisville FC, and its associated visual identity was announced on the same day. Racing plays in Lynn Family Stadium, which opened in 2020 as the new home of Louisville City.
On July 21, 2020, the NWSL announced that a Los Angeles-based team will begin play in 2022. The team's ownership group, who call themselves "Angel City," is led by president and founder Julie Uhrman, a media and gaming entrepreneur; co-founders Natalie Portman, an Oscar-winning actress, and venture capitalist Kara Nortman; venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian as lead founding investor; and additional investors including fourteen former USWNT members, most with ties to Southern California; actresses Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria; talk show host Lilly Singh; and Ohanian's wife, tennis great Serena Williams. In 2022, the Los Angeles NWSL team will be the first American professional sports team founded by a majority-woman ownership group to begin play, and co-founders Portman, Nortman, and Uhrman have publicly discussed their ownership stakes extensively as one way to address gender inequity in sports and to encourage additional investment by women into women's sports. On October 21, 2020, the ownership group announced that the expansion club would be called Angel City FC and announced more group members, among them tennis great Billie Jean King, WNBA star Candace Parker, alpine skiing great Lindsey Vonn and her fiancé at the time, NHL star P. K. Subban, actress and activist Sophia Bush, Latin music pop star Becky G, actor and TV host James Corden, and former US men's soccer international Cobi Jones.
On December 7, 2020, the NWSL announced that an expansion team in Kansas City would join the league in 2021 and take over player-related assets from the Utah Royals FC. The Royals ceased operations at the same time, but the new owners of Utah Soccer LLC (after Dell Loy Hansen completes the sale) would have the option of re-establishing the Royals franchise in 2023.
On January 12, 2021, commissioner of the NWSL Lisa Baird shared in a press conference that an expansion team in Sacramento would join the league in 2022, but that the team ownership would make the official announcement in due course. A team announcement never materialized, however. In May 2021, it was reported that the ownership group behind the Sacramento expansion would be seeking NWSL approval to move its expansion rights to San Diego instead. On June 8, 2021, the NWSL officially announced the San Diego expansion team with former United States women's national soccer team head coach Jill Ellis as president.
Stadiums and attendance
As of the current 2021 season, the NWSL uses 11 stadiums as primary home venues; one team, the Washington Spirit, splits its home games almost evenly between two venues. Another team, NJ/NY Gotham FC, used a smaller venue for its home matches in the 2021 Challenge Cup, and a number of other teams take select matches to larger venues in their areas. The highest attendance in the league's history occurred on August 11, 2019 at Providence Park when a sellout crowd of 25,218 watched Portland Thorns FC defeat the visiting North Carolina Courage 2–1. Of the 10 most-attended matches in league history, only one was not at Providence Park: the first-ever home match for the Orlando Pride in 2016.
Squad formation and salaries
In each season, teams receive a salary cap that limits their total spending on players. The salaries of federation players are paid for completely or mostly by their respective national federations, and they count against the salary cap at a pre-determined amount—$33,000 for U.S. players, and $27,500 or the actual salary for Canadian players, whichever is lower. Non-federation players are subject to minimum and maximum salary limits.
Each team provides fully paid healthcare for its players, and also provides housing, either directly or through a stipend of no more than $3,000 per month. In addition, teams are allowed to provide their players with the use of a car valued at no more than $50,000. These expenses are specifically excluded from cap calculations.
In 2019, the maximum senior roster size was expanded to 22 and the minimum to 20, with an additional four supplemental spots for players earning minimum salary that do not count against the salary cap. As of 2021,[update] the minimum senior roster size is 22 and the maximum 24, so each team could carry a maximum total of 28 players on its active roster.
The NWSL introduced significant changes to its compensation guidelines before the 2020 season. In addition to a sizable increase in the salary cap and the salary limits for unallocated players, teams now can purchase up to $300,000 in "allocation money" in excess of the salary cap to invest in qualified current or future players; allocation money can be traded. Multi-year contracts (up to three years plus one option year) are now permitted, year-round housing becomes mandatory, and the cap for permitted team assistance has been removed.
In 2021, salary for unallocated players and the team salary cap both increased between 5 and 10%.
|Year||Team cap||Unallocated player salary limits|
- All currency amounts are in USD
Active non-allocated players, including unpaid amateur players, announced their formation of a players' association on May 15, 2017, as the first step toward forming a union. Membership is limited to non-allocated players because allocated players are members of their own federation-affiliated labor organizations and negotiate contracts covering NWSL play with their respective national federations instead of the league or clubs. The association is led by civil rights attorney and former WPS players' union organizer Meghann Burke. The association was legally recognized by the NWSL on November 15, 2018, allowing players to bring formal requests to the league.
The winner of the NWSL Championship, the final match of the NWSL Playoffs, determines that season's league champion. The playoff tournament is organized by the league in a format similar to other North American professional sports leagues. At the conclusion of the regular season, the top six teams in the standings earn a berth to the tournament. Prior to 2021, only the top four teams qualified for the playoffs.
The league also awards the NWSL Shield to the team with the best record (most points) at the end of the regular season.
The first NWSL Championship was played on September 1, 2013. As of 2020, the record for the most championships is shared by Portland Thorns FC, North Carolina Courage, and former club FC Kansas City, with two titles each. The record for the most championships lost is held by Reign FC, who have lost the title game two times since the inaugural season in 2013.
As of 2020[update], four clubs have been crowned NWSL Champions: Portland Thorns FC (2), FC Kansas City (2), North Carolina Courage (2), and Western New York Flash (1). Four clubs have claimed the NWSL Shield: North Carolina Courage (3), OL Reign (2), Portland Thorns FC (1), and Western New York Flash (1). In 2018, the North Carolina Courage became the first team to win both the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship in the same season.
Regular season winners
|Championship Location||Championship Attendance||Ref.|
|2013||Portland Thorns FC||Western New York Flash||Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, New York||9,129|||
|2014||FC Kansas City||Seattle Reign FC||Starfire Sports Complex, Tukwila, Washington||4,252|||
|2015||FC Kansas City||Seattle Reign FC||Providence Park, Portland, Oregon||13,264|||
|2016||Western New York Flash||Portland Thorns FC||BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas||8,255|||
|2017||Portland Thorns FC||North Carolina Courage||Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, Florida||8,124|||
|2018||North Carolina Courage||North Carolina Courage||Providence Park, Portland, Oregon||21,144|||
|2019||North Carolina Courage||North Carolina Courage||Sahlen's Stadium, Cary, North Carolina||10,227|||
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the regular season from starting. Instead the league played the newly-announced Challenge Cup, a tournament-style competition, starting in late June, with all teams in a protective bubble in Salt Lake City. This made the NWSL the first professional team sport in the U.S. to re-start during the pandemic. The Houston Dash won the inaugural Challenge Cup, topping the Chicago Red Stars in the final.
In November 2020, the NWSL announced that the Challenge Cup would become a regular league competition. The 2021 edition of the cup was played in April-May 2021, with the Portland Thorns emerging as victors over NJ/NY Gotham FC in the final.
|Season||Challenge Cup champion||Runner-up||Final location||Ref.|
|2020||Houston Dash||Chicago Red Stars||Rio Tinto Stadium|||
|2021||Portland Thorns FC||NJ/NY Gotham FC||Providence Park|||
In September and October 2020, the league played the Fall Series, in which the nine teams were divided into three geographic "pods" to minimize travel during the COVID-19 pandemic; each team played a home-and-away round robin within its pod. The Portland Thorns won the Fall Series and the associated trophy, the Community Shield (named Verizon Community Shield for sponsorship reasons).
|2020||Portland Thorns FC|
During the 2013–2016 seasons, the majority of league games were available for viewing via YouTube or via individual team's websites. Of the eight teams in the league during the inaugural season, the Boston Breakers were the only team that charged a fee for access to their broadcasts.
On May 28, 2014, the NWSL signed a one-year agreement with ESPN to televise nine games of the 2014 NWSL season. The matches included three regular season and three playoff matches on ESPN2, as well as 3 regular season games live-streamed on ESPN3.
On June 30, 2015, the NWSL announced a one-year agreement with Fox Sports once more to cover ten matches. Three regular season and three playoff matches were televised on FS1, and four live-streamed on Fox Sports Go. The agreement was extended into 2016 under another one-year contract, covering three regular season matches and the three playoff matches, once again on FS1.
On February 2, 2017, the NWSL announced a three-year agreement with A&E Networks, in which the Lifetime network broadcast 22 regular-season matches as the NWSL Game of the Week at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday afternoons, as well as three post-season matches. This marked the first time that the NWSL had a weekly broadcast window throughout the entire season. As part of the deal, A&E Networks purchased a 25% equity stake in the NWSL and were granted two seats on the league's board. The company also formed a joint venture with the league known as NWSL Media to oversee the league's marketing and broadcast rights, and Lifetime became a league-wide kit sponsor for all players. This deal marked the first time Lifetime had broadcast sports since the WNBA in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Lifetime also streamed the game of the week in the United States via its website, and internationally in the NWSL website and iOS app. The remaining games were initially streamed exclusively by go90 in the United States under a digital rights deal with Verizon Communications, and through the NWSL website internationally.
The quality of the streams through go90 faced criticism, with sportswriters, users, and players and team staff criticizing the service for its inconsistent quality and arguing that the NWSL's growth could be harmed by go90's relative lack of reach and prominence when compared to YouTube. The Equalizer noted that the app was prone to crashing, did not have the same wide device support as YouTube, and that the telecasts themselves suffered from their own technical problems (such as poor camera angles and glitches with graphics), but that the streams were good when they worked. On May 19, 2017, the league announced that they would additionally stream games on the NWSL website and app in the U.S. until the technical issues with go90 were rectified.
After Houston Dash player Rachel Daly collapsed on the pitch after a match in Houston, on May 27 – where the heat index was reportedly over 100 degrees Fahrenheit – she was carried off on a stretcher and hospitalized for heat illness. League operations director Amanda Duffy subsequently announced that the NWSL Game of the Week matches, many of which were slated for the hottest parts of the day in humid cities such as Houston, Orlando, and Cary, North Carolina, would be rescheduled to allow for longer hydration breaks. Some Game of the Week matches changed to other venues, and teams not scheduled for television were granted more flexibility in rescheduling kickoffs for player safety. The league also adopted new procedures for addressing heat and rescheduling matches.
On June 6, 2018, it was announced that six Game of the Week matches through the remainder of the season would move to evening kickoffs and air on ESPNews (which is owned by a sister venture to A&E Networks), in an effort to ensure the safety of players, as well as improve attendance. Go90 shut down in July 2018; the remaining games not aired on television were moved back to the NWSL website for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs.
On February 20, 2019, the NWSL announced that A&E Networks had pulled out of its broadcasting agreement with the league one season early. A&E's stake in NWSL Media was given back to the league, but Lifetime will remain a kit sponsor. NWSL president Amanda Duffy said the changes would give the league and its teams finer control over its media and sponsorship agreements, and expected to announce a new television rights deal soon. Verizon Media remained the U.S. digital rightsholder to the league, but the streams moved from go90 to the Yahoo! Sports website and apps.
The NWSL did not reach any national television deals before the start of the 2019 season, but after their opening match, the Chicago Red Stars reached their own television deal with the regional sports network NBC Sports Chicago. In July 2019, the NWSL announced that ESPN had acquired a 14-match package for the remainder of the season divided among ESPNews and ESPN2, including the semifinals and championship match.
In October 2019, the NWSL signed the agency Octagon to market its media rights. It was reported that Octagon was pursuing multi-year agreements of at least three years and stronger broadcaster commitments, as to help build an audience and discourage broadcasters from acquiring NWSL rights to ride the coattails of the U.S. national team and the FIFA Women's World Cup, but then "abandon" it afterward.
On March 11, 2020, the NWSL entered into a three-year media agreement with CBS Sports and the video game-oriented streaming service Twitch. For the 2020 season, CBS Sports planned to broadcast 87 matches (including the playoffs) split between CBS, CBS Sports Network, and CBS All Access in Canada and the United States, with the exact distribution among the channels subject to change, while Twitch planned to stream an additional 24 matches for free. Twitch also became the NWSL's international media rights holder and stream all matches outside Canada and the United States for free.
On May 27, 2020, the NWSL announced that it would return from the COVID-19 pandemic with the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup tournament. All Challenge cup matches would be live on CBS All Access subscription service in the US and Canada and would re-air on CBS Sports Network, while CBS would broadcast both opening and final matches. Fans outside the US and Canada would be able to stream all 23 live matches for free on Twitch as part of NWSL broadcasting rights package.
Bold indicates active NWSL players.
Throughout the season, the league awards Player of the Week and Player of the Month awards to individual players, which are voted on by the media. The league presents six annual awards for outstanding achievements voted on by owners, general managers, coaches, players, fans, and the media (current holders in parentheses; these are from 2019, as awards in 2020 were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic):
- Golden Boot (Sam Kerr, Chicago Red Stars)
- Rookie of the Year (Bethany Balcer, Reign FC)
- Goalkeeper of the Year (Aubrey Bledsoe, Washington Spirit)
- Defender of the Year (Becky Sauerbrunn, Utah Royals FC)
- Coach of the Year (Vlatko Andonovski, Reign FC)
- Most Valuable Player (Sam Kerr, Chicago Red Stars)
In addition, the league names a NWSL Best XI team and NWSL Second XI team, which are voted on by journalists, club officials and NWSL players.
|Amanda Duffy||2016–2018||Managing director of operations|
Former general manager of the United States women's national soccer team Cheryl Bailey was announced by US Soccer President Sunil Gulati as the first commissioner of the NWSL on November 29, 2012. On November 18, 2014, she resigned after overseeing two seasons and the launch of the new professional league in less than five months ahead of the inaugural season.
On January 6, 2015, Jeff Plush, managing director of Colorado Rapids and a former MLS board member, was named as Bailey's successor. Plush oversaw the 2015 and 2016 seasons, including the Orlando Pride expansion, a broadcast partnership with A+E Networks (including the three-year broadcast deal with Lifetime television), and the sale of the Western New York Flash to North Carolina FC owner Stephen Malik and the team's relocation to North Carolina. During his tenure, former Louisville City FC president Amanda Duffy was hired in December 2016 as the NWSL's managing director of operations.
Plush resigned as commissioner on March 2, 2017 and the position remained vacant until 2020, although Duffy served as the public face of league management. On January 15, 2019, Duffy was promoted to president, the league's highest office.
On January 7, 2020, Amanda Duffy announced that she would leave the NWSL for a leadership position at the Orlando Pride on February 15, 2020. On February 27, 2020, the NWSL announced that Lisa Baird, chief marketing officer of the New York Public Radio, would become the league's commissioner on March 10, 2020.
- List of foreign NWSL players
- Major women's sport leagues in North America
- Professional sports leagues in the United States
- List of professional sports teams in the United States and Canada
- Women's soccer in the United States
- Women's professional sports
- Linehan, Meg; Rueter, Jeff (January 12, 2021). "NWSL news galore: Sacramento is in, the USSF is out, Utah investigation buried". The Athletic. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
- "Will NWSL be a success? Well ..." espnW. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
- Whiteside, Kelly (November 21, 2012). "Women's pro soccer league to debut in U.S. next year". USA Today. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
- Mayers, Joshua. "Seattle will have team in new women's professional league owned by Bill Predmore". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
- "NWSL Announces Innovative 2021 Competition Framework". NWSL. November 18, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
- "2018 Competition Rules and Regulations". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- "The Lowdown: My thoughts on the 2016 NWSL schedule". The Equalizer. March 2, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
- intive. "NWSL announces 2020 Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret". NWSL. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
- "NWSL Announces Innovative 2021 Competition Framework". NWSL. November 18, 2020. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
- Kassouf, Jeff (June 29, 2012). "New women's soccer league in the works for 2013 following meeting in Chicago". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
- Bell, Jack (April 13, 2013). "Another Attempt at Women's Circuit, but With a Twist". The New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- Lauletta, Dan (November 21, 2012). "Eight teams to start new women's pro soccer league in 2013". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
- "Cheryl Bailey Named Executive Director of New Women's Soccer League". US Soccer. Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
- "Nike extends partnership with NWSL through 2019". espnW. Associated Press. September 30, 2015.
- "FC Kansas City earns point in league opener". FC Kansas City. April 14, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- "Christine Sinclair penalty kick leads Thorns FC to 1–1 draw against FC Kansas City". Portland Thorns. April 13, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
- Jorstad, Keith (August 20, 2013). "NWSL Attendance Watch Week 19". The Equalizer. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- "FC Kansas City earn playoff berth with 3–2 win over Thorns FC". National Women's Soccer League. August 4, 2013. Archived from the original on August 17, 2014. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
- Moran, Gwen (July 29, 2015). "Pro women's soccer is having a moment. Here's how to make it last". Fortune. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
- Kassouf, Jeff (March 19, 2015). "Plush: Six cities interested in NWSL expansion". The Equalizer. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
- McCauley, Kevin (April 15, 2016). "NWSL has survived longer than any other women's soccer league". SBNation. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- Goff, Steven (June 26, 2020). "NWSL Challenge Cup opens this weekend, making women's soccer first U.S. team sport back". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Das, Andrew (July 2, 2020). "Federal Loan Saved a Soccer Season Nearly Lost to the Pandemic". The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- "2013 Roster Rules". National Women's Soccer League. Archived from the original on May 20, 2015. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- Hays, Graham (January 11, 2013). "NWSL allocation easier said than done". espnW. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "2014 Roster Rules – National Women's Soccer League". National Women's Soccer League. Archived from the original on May 20, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- "OL Groupe to become majority owner of National Women's Soccer League's Reign FC" (Press release). National Women's Soccer League. December 19, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- Murray, Caitlyn. "Dynamo welcome NWSL expansion team: Houston Dash". SBI Soccer. Archived from the original on February 16, 2014. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
- Goff, Steven (November 8, 2019). "Washington Spirit to split home matches among three venues next season". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- "NWSL announces Boston Breakers to cease operations". National Women's Soccer League. January 28, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- Linehan, Meg (November 20, 2017). "NWSL announces that FC Kansas City will cease operations". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
- Kamrani, Christopher; Stejskal, Sam; Linehan, Meg; Tenorio, Paul (December 8, 2020). "MLS likely to take control of Real Salt Lake sale in January, sources say". The Athletic. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- "Utah Soccer LLC Transfers Ownership of Utah Royals FC to Group in Kansas City, Kansas". Real Salt Lake. December 6, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
- "Kansas City Returns to the NWSL as Expansion Team in 2021". NWSL. December 7, 2020. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
- "North Carolina Football Club enters into agreement to acquire rights to NWSL's 2016 champions Western New York Flash". North Carolina Courage. January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- "Western New York Flash Announces Entry into United Women's Soccer" (Press release). Western New York Flash. March 7, 2017. Archived from the original on January 29, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
- Giase, Frank (December 11, 2012). "On Soccer: New women's pro league has backing of U.S. Soccer Federation". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
- Kassouf, Jeff (November 20, 2012). "Established LA ownership excluded for geography". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
- Kassouf, Jeff (November 21, 2012). "Connecticut hopes for expansion bid, again". The Equalizer. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
- Rollins, Duane (May 15, 2013). "The View from the North: Silence speaking volumes in Toronto?". The Equalizer. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- Dulhanty, Emily. "The Case for Toronto: National Women's Soccer League Expansion". Red Nation Online. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- "Exclusive: Gulati confirms no NWSL expansion for 2014". Soccer Wire. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
- Coleman, Adam (July 17, 2013). "Cy Woods girls' soccer coach living dream as pro player". Cyprus Creek Mirror. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- Giase, Frank (August 20, 2013). "On Soccer: National Women's Soccer League on solid ground". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- "arnim whisler on expansion". BigSoccer.com. August 4, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2013.[better source needed]
- Murray, Caitlin (August 25, 2013). "Exclusive: Gulati confirms no NWSL expansion for 2014". Soccer Wire. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- Bell, Jack (August 23, 2013). "Sky Blue Looks Beyond N.W.S.L. Playoffs". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- Lovell, Darrell (November 19, 2013). "Houston Dynamo looking into becoming second MLS team to own professional women's club". Houston Dynamo. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
- "Houston Dynamo launch Houston Dash as expansion member of National Women's Soccer League". Houston Dynamo. December 12, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- Goff, Steve (December 11, 2013). "NWSL expanding to Houston in 2014". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
- "The Lowdown: World Cup bump engulfs NWSL". The Equalizer. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- "10 minutes with NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush on the Women's World Cup, role models, league expansion". Major League Soccer. July 8, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- "Orlando City likely to add NWSL Women's team". Fansided. July 20, 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- "National Women's Soccer League set to capitalize on U.S.'s World Cup title". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
- "Orlando Pride women's soccer team to join NWSL in 2016". Bay News 9. Archived from the original on October 25, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
- Farley, Richard (November 15, 2017). "Real Salt Lake team to replace FC Kansas City: What it means for the NWSL". FourFourTwo. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
- Sullivan, Tim (November 12, 2019). "Louisville's NWSL expansion team has a name, and it's a nod to Kentucky's favorite spirit". Louisville Courier Journal. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
- "Louisville NWSL team may get name change". SportBusiness. April 22, 2020.
- Williams, Bob (July 8, 2020). "NWSL Louisville team rebranded as Racing Louisville FC". SportBusiness. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
- "Racing Louisville FC Announced as NWSL's Newest Franchise" (Press release). Racing Louisville FC. July 8, 2020. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
- "National Women's Soccer League announces expansion to Louisville in 2021" (Press release). National Women's Soccer League. October 22, 2019. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
- "National Women's Soccer League awards expansion team rights to Los Angeles". NWSL. July 21, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
- "We Are Angel City". Angel City. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
- "MLS expands to St. Louis; team to start in 2022". ESPN.com. August 20, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2019.
- Brassil, Gillian R. (July 21, 2020). "New Women's Soccer Team, Founded by Women, Will Press Equal Pay Cause". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
- Burhan, Asif (July 21, 2020). "New NWSL Franchise Angel City Commits To Tackling Social Inequality In Los Angeles". Forbes. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
- Settimi, Christina (July 21, 2020). "Serena Williams, Natalie Portman, USWNT Legends Bringing Women's Soccer To LA In NWSL Ownership Group". Forbes. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
- "Angel City Confirms Name as Angel City Football Club and Officially Joins National Women's Soccer League" (Press release). National Women’s Soccer League. October 21, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- Rodriguez, Alicia (January 12, 2021). "NWSL commissioner announces Sacramento expansion team will enter league in 2022". Indomitable City Soccer. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
- Stejskal, Sam; Tenorio, Paul; Rueter, Jeff; Linehan, Meg (February 26, 2021). "Sacramento Republic's MLS future in doubt: Why it happened and what comes next". The Athletic. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
- Linehan, Meg (May 6, 2021). "NWSL expected to approve Sacramento expansion group move to San Diego: Sources". The Athletic. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
- Zeigler, Mark (June 8, 2021). "Women's pro soccer coming to San Diego in 2022". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
- Goldberg, Jamie (August 11, 2019). "Portland Thorns fight back to earn massive 2-1 win over North Carolina Courage in front of record-setting crowd". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- "Orlando Pride rolls to 3–1 win before record crowd in home debut". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
- Kassouf, Jeff (May 11, 2021). "NWSL minimum and maximum salaries, team caps each rise 5-10% in 2021". The Equalizer. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
- "NWSL Announces 2021 Roster Rules, Regulations and Competition Guidelines". NWSL. May 13, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
- Purdy, Jacqueline (January 10, 2019). "NWSL increases roster size ahead of the 2019 season". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- Levine, Matthew (November 1, 2019). "NWSL announces new 2020 compensation guidelines". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- Kassouf, Jeff (November 1, 2019). "NWSL approves $300,000 per team in allocation money, raises salaries league-wide". The Equalizer. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
- Kassouf, Jeff (May 11, 2021). "NWSL minimum and maximum salaries, team caps each rise 5-10% in 2021". The Equalizer. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
- "Non-allocated NWSL players take step toward forming union". Sports Illustrated. Associated Press. May 15, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
- Meghann Burke [@NWSL_PA] (May 15, 2017). "[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE] NWSL Non-Allocated Players Announce the Formation of a Players Association" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Non-allocated players form NWSL Players Association". The Equalizer. May 15, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
- Gonzalez, Monica (May 16, 2017). "INTERVIEW: Burke Leads New US Union". FIFPro. Archived from the original on June 25, 2018. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
- "NWSLPA becomes legally recognized as union, opening doors to further improvements". The Equalizer. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
- "Portland Thorns win NWSL championship". espnW. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "NC Courage shuts out Portland Thorns for NWSL championship, avenging 2017 title game". charlotteobserver. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "Portland Thorns Become 2013 NWSL Champions". Pitchside Report. September 1, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "'Pure disappointment' for Reign as Kansas City takes NWSL title". thenewstribune. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Goldberg, Jamie (September 22, 2018). "Portland Thorns motivated to hoist championship trophy in front of home fans". The Oregonian. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "Attendance Shocker at 2017 NWSL Championship". MLS Multiplex. October 17, 2017. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Goldberg, Jamie (October 15, 2017). "Portland Thorns win 2017 NWSL Championship with 1-0 victory over North Carolina Courage". The Oregonian. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "North Carolina Wins N.W.S.L. Championship in a Rematch". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 22, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Levine, Matthew (September 22, 2019). "North Carolina Courage claims third-straight NWSL Shield with 3-0 win over Utah Royals FC". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2019.
- Levine, Matthew (May 27, 2020). "NWSL announces 2020 Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret". NWSL Soccer. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- Goff, Steven (June 26, 2020). "NWSL Challenge Cup opens this weekend, making women's soccer first U.S. team sport back". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- "Houston Dash win maiden trophy, topping Chicago in Challenge Cup final". The Guardian. July 26, 2020. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- "NWSL Schedule". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
- Donovan, Mike (May 8, 2021). "Challenge Cup Championship Recap | Portland Thorns FC 1 (6), NJ/NY Gotham FC 1 (5)". Portland Thorns FC. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
- "NWSL to continue breakout 2020 season with fall series". NWSL Soccer. August 25, 2020. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- Levine, Matthew (October 10, 2020). "Portland Thorns FC clinch first place in Verizon Community Shield with victory over OL Reign". NWSL Soccer. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- "National Women's Soccer League". Retrieved September 21, 2013 – via YouTube.
- Murray, Caitlin (August 14, 2013). "Assessing Year 1, future of NWSL livestreams". The Equalizer. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
- "NWSL, FSMG announce national TV agreement". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- "NWSL and ESPN announce national broadcast agreement". National Women's Soccer League. May 28, 2014. Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
- Goldberg, Jamie (June 30, 2015). "NWSL and Fox Sports announce national broadcast deal". The Oregonian. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
- "Fox Sports to broadcast six NWSL games in 2016". The Oregonian. April 14, 2016. Retrieved May 10, 2016.
- "NWSL, go90 announce exclusive streaming partnership". Black and Red United (SBNation). Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- "Lifetime To Air National Women's Soccer League Games As A+E Networks Kicks in For Equity Stake". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
- "A+E Networks, National Women's Soccer League Ink Major Deal". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
- Hagey, Keach (February 2, 2017). "A+E Networks Buys Stake in National Women's Soccer League". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Das, Andrew (February 2, 2017). "In A&E, Women's Soccer League Gets an Investor and a Bigger Platform". The New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
- Rollins, Sean (May 15, 2017). "Go90 Deal Puts NWSL and Orlando Pride in Dire Situation". The Maneland (SB Nation). Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Smith, Chad C (May 1, 2017). "The NWSL's go90 Deal Could Be Hurting the League". The Blue Testament (SB Nation). Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Lee, Allison (April 13, 2017). "Lee: NWSL missed the mark with go90". The Equalizer. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Bush, Chelsey (May 17, 2017). "Run of Play: Technical Difficulties". The Equalizer. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- "NWSL to offer streams on league site, app". The Equalizer. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
- Burke, Timothy (May 27, 2017). "Rachel Daly Collapses, Is Taken Off on Stretcher at End of Match". Deadspin. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
- Kennedy, Paul (June 13, 2017). "NWSL: Measures adopted to deal with afternoon heat". Soccer America. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
- "NWSL hopes moving games to evening slot on ESPNews will boost attendance, ensure player safety". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
- "NWSL will stream games on website in August and September after go90 shuts down". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
- Kassouf, Jeff. "The NWSL's partnership with A+E is over. Now what?". The Equalizer. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- Romero, Iliana Limón (April 13, 2019). "How to watch NWSL matches this season". Pro Soccer USA. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- Northam, Mitchell (April 17, 2019). "NWSL: NBC Sports Chicago to broadcast Red Stars". Pro Soccer USA. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- "ESPN to show 14 NWSL games, including playoffs, for the rest of 2019 season". Awful Announcing. July 4, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
- "Octagon insists on three-year minimums for NWSL US broadcast deals, says report". SportsPro Media. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
- Levine, Matthew (March 11, 2020). "NWSL announces landmark multi-year media agreements with CBS Sports featuring games on CBS, CBS Sports Network, & CBS All-Access and Twitch". NWSL. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
- Alexander, Julia (March 11, 2020). "Amazon continues push into sports with National Women's Soccer League on Twitch". The Verge. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
- "NWSL Inks Multi-Year Deal With CBS Sports, Twitch". Sports Video Group. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
- Levine, Matthew (May 27, 2020). "NWSL announces 2020 Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret". Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "Player of the Week: Jen Hoy". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "August's Best: Monica Ocampo". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- Purdy, Jacqueline (September 16, 2018). "2018 NWSL Awards Finalists". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
- "NWSL BEST XI". National Women's Soccer League. Archived from the original on September 26, 2013. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- "NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey to step down". November 18, 2014.
- "Jeff Plush is new commissioner of women's soccer league". Yahoo! Sports. January 6, 2015.
- "NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush Steps Down". OurSports Central. March 2, 2017.
- Levine, Matthew (January 7, 2020). "Amanda Duffy resigns as National Women's Soccer League President". NWSL. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- "Cheryl Bailey Named Executive Director of New Women's Soccer League". ussoccer.com. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey to step down". Portland Timbers. November 18, 2014.
- Jan 6, foxsports; ET, 2015 at 6:27p (January 6, 2015). "NWSL names Jeff Plush as new women's soccer league commissioner". Fox Sports. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- "Western New York Flash, defending National Womens Soccer League champions, announce move to North Carolina". espnW. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Finley, Marty (December 20, 2016). "Women's pro soccer league names new president". The Business Journals. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
- Halloran, John D. (May 8, 2017). "Amanda Duffy Addresses NWSL Present and Future". American Soccer Now. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- "Amanda Duffy named President of NWSL". NWSL. January 15, 2019. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- "Long-Time Soccer Executive Amanda Duffy Appointed to Lead Orlando Pride". Orlando City SC. January 7, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- Levine, Matthew (February 27, 2020). "National Women's Soccer League names Lisa Baird as Commissioner". NWSL. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to National Women's Soccer League.|
Women's Professional Soccer
| Division 1 Soccer League in the United States