By Celia Balf
NWSL managing director Amanda Duffy addressed the media on a conference call on Wednesday in preparation for the 2018 NWSL regular season, set to kick off this Saturday, March 24.Opening remarks:
Amanda Duffy: We are excited to get the 2018 regular season underway this Saturday. We had a challenging offseason with the loss of two team operators in Kansas City and in Boston. We certainly thank them both for their contribution to the growth of women’s soccer and NWSL over the years. We do feel the league has emerged positioned for long term stability and growth. We are extremely excited about the addition of Dell Loy Hansen and the Utah Royals, not just with their facilities, infrastructure and resources, but their passionate commitment to the league and to the women’s game as well. We continue to be engaged in a number of expansion discussions with multiple groups for 2019 and beyond, and we’re extremely optimistic about where those discussions are currently.
This season marks our second season in partnership with Lifetime and with the NWSL Game of the Week, giving our fans appointment television and allowing us to showcase the Game of the Week throughout the season. It also marks the second season of digitally broadcast games available on go90, and between Lifetime, go90 and the NWSL website, all of the league’s games will continue to be free and accessible by fans domestically and internationally.
We will continue pursuing initiatives that increase the league’s, the clubs’ and the players’ engagement with our fans. And as we get the league’s sixth season underway we are confident that the quality of our players and the competition will allow us to remain leaders in the game globally.
I want to thank you all for your coverage and your support of the league both previously and going forward through this historic season.On the location of the 2018 NWSL Championship:
Duffy: Something we are actively working with a host right now, and hoping in the coming weeks to have that announced. That will allow us to utilize the full season, both from a digital standpoint and also with our broadcast to promote the location, the market and surrounding events with the championship.On the roster rule change to allow teams to retain the rights for unsigned NWSL College Draft picks for the season:
Duffy: The reason for the change was given the number of assets that each of our clubs have with our current roster rules and regulations. We felt it was important to allow the clubs to continue to retain those rights through the season to give them more opportunity and flexibility in any player negotiations that they enter into. It is also an opportunity to have access to these players, in one scenario with national team replacement players to utilize this set of players where the clubs retain their rights to bring them in those opportunities.On the growth of the league:
Duffy: Well from the areas of growth it is in reference to the markets, teams, fans, broadcast viewers players, the quality of all that we’re working on and evaluating on a day in and day out basis. But from being positioned for stability and growth and looking at the quality of our existing ownerships, the quality of our own markets, the quality of facilities that the teams and players have access to and each of the owners commitment to the long term development of this league are all areas that we feel we have right now or are in a growing position with and believe that it will continue to help us with our growth going forward.On the Christen Press/Houston Dash situation:
Duffy: Given the situation, and this particular player is an allocated player, therefore under contract with the federation the discussion remains ongoing between the [U.S.] Women’s National Team Players Association, the player, the federation and the club predominantly, but we do anticipate resolution heading into the season and a decision to be made, ultimately which needs to be made by the player at this time.
[On the timing of that resolution regarding Press]
It could be before the season and we anticipate that it will be. There’s nothing that will prevent it from continuing after the start of the season, but everyone is actively discussing the next steps and hoping to have resolution as soon as possible.On no longer using amateur players:
Duffy: It was introduced in the 2017 season and a priority for the league owners, for the league itself, for the federation, for all parties a part of NWSL that as a Division-I women’s professional league it was important to maintain 100% professional level of player in the league.
It was specifically an internal decision just based on how we want the players to be treated and the quality of the competition in the league.On timing of refunds for Boston Breakers season ticket holders:
Duffy: We can’t comment to specifics, as it’s an ongoing discussion with the entity and their legal counsel. Certainly something that we recognize and understand and as soon as next steps are able to be taken they will be.On the kickoff time for the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime:
Duffy: It’s a subject of ongoing discussion with Lifetime and A+E Networks. We think having the destination time each week is valuable for the league where we are right now. So in that we are excited to continue to have the Game of the Week this week and have a day and time to point our fans to consistently throughout the season and continue to have discussions with Lifetime about the time itself for future seasons.