For years, Australia's W-League was played in tandem with the NWSL.
The W-League, which operated during the Australian summer, provided an offseason home for Australian stars playing in the NWSL and Americans seeking more playing time. The money wasn't great but it did supplement their NWSL earnings, and chance to discover Australia was luring.
But most of the top Matildas, including Sam Kerr
(Chelsea), Ellie Carpenter
(Lyon) and Caitlin Foord
(Arsenal), have moved to Europe.
The American contingent, which included 11 players in the 2020 semifinals in March, is down to less than half of the that across nine teams for the new season, which opened on Tuesday.
The drop-off in quality is concerning for Australia less than three years before it co-hosts the Women's World Cup with New Zealand.
The W-League can do nothing about losing Matildas from the NWSL to Europe's top teams but attracting Americans like Lauren Barnes
, who won her fourth W-League title when Melbourne City beat Sydney FC, 1-0, in the 2020 Grand Final, has become problematic because of a change in the W-League's schedule from late October to late February to late December through April. NWSL teams usually open preseason at the beginning of March.
Melbourne City opened the new season on Tuesday against Brisbane Roar with only one American on the team, veteran Samantha Johnson
, who did not play in the NWSL in 2020. Its squad was depleted with the loss of three players to WSL teams: Rebekah Stott
(Brighton & Hove Albion), Lydia Williams
(Arsenal) and Steph Catley
Melbourne City's coach, Rado Vidosic
, said the W-League's short season is a detriment to the league's growth.
“I think we need to bite the bullet, and need to go full-time," he told
ABC News, "because the only way for these players to improve is to be full-time in a professional environment."