Club Play and World Cup Commitments

The Women’s World Cup is less than 100 days away, the Algarve Cup is right around the corner, and women’s soccer fans everywhere are getting more and more anxious for the thing to HAPPEN already. The anticipation is so great. I love it.

On the men’s side of things, though, things are different. As NPR reported yesterday, the men are busy thinking ahead to 2022 and the controversial Qatar World Cup. Since apparently no one worried about whether it was wise to hold a soccer tournament where the average daily temperature reaches 99 degrees, they’re ‘scrambling’ (7 years in advance is scrambling in the men’s world) to change the tournament to the winter months.

English Premier League owners are beyond angry because the new schedule will interfere with their league play. And they expect to be compensated… which makes sense, really. Why would FIFA interrupt league play and pull the world’s best players away from their professional club duties and divide attention? That’s guaranteed to decrease hype and attention, right?

Contrast this with the way that the NWSL has bent over backward to support the WWC. This league has no room for losing viewership. It’s in it’s third season, which seems to be the season of death for most women’s soccer leagues, and it’s trying desperately to accommodate world cup scheduling and league play. US Soccer has been particularly callous with respect to the international duties of the US players, calling them up for meaningless friendlies in the waning months of an exciting playoff run in the league. Then again, though, without the support of US Soccer (and the Canada Soccer and Mexico), the NWSL wouldn’t be viable at all. And in some respects, the refusal of the league to arrange scheduling around internationals leads to more interesting contests and less lopsided competition. The upcoming season will be interesting to watch from a coach’s standpoint, since losing star players for most of the first half of the season will certainly require some creative placements and utilization of amateur players.

The Seattle Reign, though – they’re sitting pretty. As sad as I was that Kim Little won’t be playing in the World Cup, I am beyond excited to watch her tear up the NWSL competition.

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