NWSL: Highs and lows of the Duffy era

After almost three years at the helm of the National Women's Soccer League, Amanda Duffy is stepping down as president to take an executive position with the Orlando Pride.

Duffy joined the NWSL as managing director of operations in December 2016, became the league's top executive when commissioner Jeff Plush left in March 2017, and she was promoted to president in January 2019.

The league's owners have recently been seeking to fill the position of commissioner, a position Duffy was not expected to receive. Soccer America can confirm what the Washington Post's Steven Goff first reported. It had also been told she had recently been in the running for another soccer executive position not related to the NWSL.

Duffy has overseen a turbulent period for the NWSL, the longest-running U.S. women's pro league. Despite the continued popularity of the U.S. women's national team, which retained its World Cup title in 2019, the NWSL won't expand in 2020 and is still seeking a national broadcast partner. Indeed, the NWSL will open the 2020 season with less teams than when she entered the league, but from top to bottom the lineup of nine teams is the strongest in league history.

Here are some of the highs and lows of the last three years.

May 15, 2017. Non-allocated players ratify formation of NWSL Players Association. The first step toward union recognition is made by non-allocated NWSL players -- players whose contracts aren't funded by U.S. Soccer or the Canadian Soccer Association -- by an overwhelming majority. Pay and working conditions of NWSL players have been an issue in the young league. For its first four seasons, the minimum salary was no higher than $7,200 a year. Many players have retired before or in their prime to pursue careers outside of soccer because of women's pro soccer's low pay.

Nov 20, 2017. The NWSL acquires FC Kansas City's membership interest in the league. FC Kansas City, winner of back-to-back NWSL titles in 2014 and 2015, was last in attendance in the NWSL in 2017. Following Minnesota businessman Elam Baer's purchase of the team following the 2016 season from the group that operated the indoor Missouri Comets, FC Kansas City suffered a drop of almost 43 percent to 1,788 fans a game, its worst average in five seasons and less than a half of what it averaged in its first season in 2013.

Dec. 1, 2017. The Utah Royals are introduced as the NWSL's newest team.FC Kansas City's players are assigned to the new team Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen will operate. The Royals will be an instant success, selling out Rio Tinto Stadium for their first game and averaging 9,466 fans in 2018 and 10,889 in 2019. Utah is just the fourth women's pro team to average more than 10,000 fans a game after WUSA's Washington Freedom and Atlanta Beat in 2001 and the NWSL's Portland Thorns (2013-19). (Mexico's Tigres will join them for the Liga MX Femenil's 2019 Apertura.)

Jan. 25, 2018. The Boston Breakers fold less than a month before the start of preseason. The Breakers' roots went all the way back to WUSA, but they struggled on the field and at the gate in their five seasons in the NWSL and became the third team to move or fold in a year after the Western New York Flash (now at North Carolina) and FC Kansas City.

July 18, 2018. Stories of 'sweatshop' conditions get Sky Blue FC owner-governor's attention. Sky Blue FC, whose majority owner is New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, comes under the microscope with reports of poor housing and working conditions and inadequate facilities for its players and charges of mismanagement. publishes an article: "Hey, Gov. Murphy: Fix your sweatshop of a women's soccer team."

Feb. 20, 2019. The NWSL and A+E end their partnership. Less than two months before the start of the NWSL season and the third and final year of their broadcast agreement, the league ends its agreement with A+E covering a national game of the week on Lifetime. The agreement gave A+E an equity stake in the NWSL and it managed the digital and commercial side of the business. Owners consider the move in the best long-term interest of the league, but it leaves the league seriously short-staffed in a World Cup year.

Aug. 11, 2019. The Portland Thorns set an NWSL single-game attendance record, welcoming 25,218 fans for their match against Chicago at expanded Providence Park. They will become the first women's pro club in the world to average more than 20,000 fans game with an average of 20,098 for 12 home regular-season games in 2019.

Aug. 24, 2019. The Washington Spirit draws a club record crowd of 19,741 fans at Audi Field, home of MLS's D.C. United. The game against Orlando more than doubled the Spirit's record set in 2018 when it played at the new stadium. The Spirit will be one of six NWSL teams to break their single-game attendance record after the U.S. World Cup champions returned to the league in July. Buoyed by the success of its two games played at Audi Field, the Spirit will reach an agreement with D.C. United to split its 2020 NWSL schedule between Audi Field, the Maryland SoccerPlex, its home since the NWSL started in 2013, and Segra Field, which opened in 2019 as the home of Loudoun United.

Average attendance:
2019: 7,386
2018: 6,024
2017: 5,083
2016: 5,558
2015: 5,046
2014: 4,139
2013: 4,270
2011: 3,518
2010: 3,601
2009: 4,490
2003: 6,667
2002: 6,957
2001: 8,116

Oct. 21, 2019. NWSL brings in Octagon to devise media and marketing strategy. Octagon, one of the largest sports agencies in the world with extensive background in women's sports, will provide comprehensive media rights valuation and sales strategy services and -- most important -- advice on finding a new media partner. It will also assist the NWSL with brand marketing, asset development, sponsorship valuation and fan engagement insights.

Oct. 22, 2019. Louisville is introduced as an expansion team to begin play in 2021. John Neace and Soccer Holdings LLC -- the owners of the USL Championship's Louisville City -- will operate the team, later named Proof Louisville FC. It will play at the 11,500-seat Lynn Family Stadium that Louisville City has built in the Butchertown neighborhood and will open in 2020.

Oct. 27, 2019. North Carolina Courage completes back-to-back doubles. The North Carolina Courage shows why it's the greatest team in the history of U.S. women's pro history when it crushes the Chicago Red Stars, 4-0, in the 2019 NWSL final in front of a record crowd of 10,227 fans in Cary, North Carolina.

Nov. 1, 2019. NWSL increases salary cap to $650,000 and introduces $300,000 in allocation money. The 2020 salary cap will be up from $421,500 in 2019 and $350,000 in 2018. The allocation money can be spent on players other than U.S. and Canadian allocated players and be used to pay for their salaries in excess of its salary cap over the new league maximum salary of $50,000 or pay for transfer fees for the first time.

NWSL salary cap
2013 $200,000
2014 $200,000
2015 $265,000
2016 $278,000
2017 $315,000
2018 $350,000
2019 $421,500
2020 $600,000 (plus $300,000 allocation money)

Nov. 14, 2019. Sam Kerr, the NWSL's all-time leading scorer, leaves the Chicago Red Stars for Chelsea. The 26-year-old Australian split time between clubs in the NWSL -- Western New York Flash, Sky Blue FC and Chicago -- and Perth Glory in the Australian W-League. She won the NWSL scoring title the last three seasons and was the MVP in 2017 and 2019.

Nov. 18, 2019.  Sky Blue FC will play all its 2020 NWSL home games at Red Bull Arena. In the most significant demonstration of its intention to turn a page on its troubled past at Rutgers University's Yurcak Field, its home for 10 years, Sky Blue FC announced it will move into the home of MLS's New York Red Bulls, in Harrison, N.J., where it drew crowds of 9,415 and 8,314 fans for matches late in the 2019 NWSL season.

Dec. 19, 2019. OL Groupe takes over majority control of Reign FC. The owner of French giant Lyon buys out majority owners Bill and Teresa Predmore, who will retain 7.5 percent and remain involved as CEO and academy president, respectively. Frenchman Tony Parker, the former NBA star, will hold 3 percent.

2 comments about "NWSL: Highs and lows of the Duffy era".
  1. Randy Vogt, January 7, 2020 at 6:26 a.m.

    Proof Louisville FC is such a poor name for a team. I'll offer a much better one, Kentucky Roses, as Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, the Run for the Roses, and women love roses. 

  2. Carey Thompson, January 7, 2020 at 12:44 p.m.

    How about the Louisville #2. Because men are full of horse#%?!.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications