Kendra Halterman is a WPSL lifer.
The Utah native has been a player, run a team, and served as a conference delegate, associate commissioner and league ambassador. This month, as it begins its 25th season, she was named commissioner of the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
That quarter-century makes the WPSL the longest active women’s soccer league in the country. With more than 130 clubs in 33 states, it calls itself the world’s largest women’s soccer league.
Split into 21 conferences in four divisions – with intriguing team names like the El Paso Surf, Fresno Freeze, Midwest Select Muskrats and Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions – the WPSL is both diverse and underpublicized.
Annual budgets range from $20,000 to $76,000, for administration, operations, venue rental and marketing.
Players are not paid. But it was there when professional women’s soccer faltered. And it’s provided a place for a host of famous names, including Shannon Boxx, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Kristine Lilly, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach.
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Halterman has been with the WPSL almost from the start. She began playing in 1999 with the Utah Spiders, then joined the Las Vegas Shooters. In 2008, she and two others started their own club, Sparta Women. They soon joined forces with Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen.
“He had daughters who played soccer,” Halterman recalls. “He heard our story – we had quite a few moms on our team, we drove our own vehicles to away games, we cleaned stadiums to raise money. He was a great advocate for the women’s game.” The team went through various incarnations, eventually becoming part of the National Women’s Soccer League Utah Royals.
As a club owner, Halterman still “jumped into” games. She was grateful for every opportunity to help build women’s soccer, in Utah and throughout the league. (In her spare time, she runs Premier, and First and Second Division teams, in the adult Wasatch Women’s Soccer League. And she’s on the board of directors of Utah Adult Soccer.)
But right now, she’s focused on her new role as WPSL commissioner. It’s a role held most recently by men. The league president, Sean Jones, is also a male. But, Halterman says, “he’s been very vocal about having me step forward, to take on this role. All the owners want to really empower females.”
As commissioner, she will be “the face of the league.” She’ll build relationships and partnerships. She’ll represent the WPSL in meeting with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and U.S. Soccer.
Despite its longevity, the WPSL faces challenges. New leagues pop up constantly, Halterman says, which can “dilute” the soccer landscape. Unlike most, hers is a “strictly women’s” league, giving it a special focus and direction.
In the spring of 2025, the WPSL will introduce a professional Division III league, with about 10 teams. Planned before COVID, it was shelved during the pandemic. Another step forward came with the introduction of a U-21 program.
That longevity is a source of pride for Halterman. “We were there when the pro league failed,” she says. “We provided a place for women to play when they had nowhere to go. We’ll continue to do that. We’ve always grown; we’ve never reversed. We provide a platform for all women to play.”
Though the WPSL has no formal affiliation with the Women’s World Cup, Halterman says, “we are here for our national team. We are proud of American women’s soccer” – particularly the USWNT athletes who once played in the league. Halterman was at the 2019 final in Lyon, France, and a number of players and staff will travel to Australia and New Zealand for this year’s event.
“We’ve been underrated. We haven’t had a lot of publicity,” Halterman admits. “But we’ve always been there for people to play. I think we’ve helped the game, and helped it grow.”
The “P” in WPSL stands for “premier,” not “professional.” But it could also mean “pride” and “passion” – two reasons Kendra Halterman has been part of the league for nearly all of its 25 years.