Recently, one of US women’s soccer’s original franchises the Boston Breakers folded, only a few short weeks out from the start of preseason and after the draft had taken place. In 2018, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will be a nine team league. The Breakers’ roster was made part of a dispersal draft last week, where the players were picked up by the remaining franchises who will work with expanded rosters for 2018.
The Boston Breakers have had a team in every iteration of the women’s professional league in the United States. In recent years, they have struggled, but were a foundation club with great players and potential (thanks to the way in which the draft works) and their loss is a harsh blow for the league. The franchise had a prospective buyer pull out at short notice and were unable to solve the issue in time. As a result, they were forced to cease operations.
This is incredibly sad and damaging for several reasons. First and because of the Boston Breakers’ recent struggles, they have had early draft picks for the past few years. As such, their roster included last year’s number one pick Rose Lavelle, widely considered a future great of the National Team, and this year they picked up Savannah McCaskill as the number two pick, who has also been called into the WNT camp. New Zealand’s Rosie White, a key member of the Football Ferns, was also on the team and there are many more players of great talent and class who were left in limbo. Such was the speed at which everything progressed, many players (although some had limited pre-warning) were shocked at the news. Moreover, they had to plan a future for themselves that would help their careers in a matter of days or weeks.
To the league’s credit, they quickly organised the dispersal draft. Players were allowed to opt in or out of it if they wanted to seek opportunities outside of the US, which was a good feature. The Breakers players do not count towards their new team’s roster count of 20 spots. It means that they have somewhere to go.
Yet, these issues continue to plague the NWSL. No one was willing to step up and save the Breakers, and a last-minute, stitched together solution had to be found. Whilst yes, a solution of some description (which is always preferable to none at all), even the dispersal draft will have troubling consequences. Younger, less experienced players will find it harder to get game time in crowded rosters, new combinations will have to be forged, and a nine team league is never as good as one with ten.
Last year, I wrote an article on the progress of the NWSL and what it needed to do to continue to improve. Unfortunately, losing a franchise in this way is not what needs to happen. The loss of the Breakers is a clear setback. The NWSL will need to bounce back and, in my opinion, definitely add another team in 2019.
Finally, the entire scenario would have been deeply stressful for the players and they were not warned as they should have been. They are professional athletes who deserve a strong and stable league, which US Soccer must continue to seek.
A lover of the game since the age of 4. Living and playing for club and school in Auckland and loving every second on the pitch (apart from the end of a losing match).