Women'south pro league embarks on historic fourth season

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 3:30 AM

S. women'south pro soccer league has gone: A fourth season. The NWSL enters its pivotal season starting Saturday, still riding the boost that the sport was given by the U.

Women'south pro league embarks on historic fourth season

The National Women'south Soccer League is going where number other previous U. S. women'south pro soccer league has gone: A fourth season.

The NWSL enters its pivotal season starting Saturday, still riding the boost that the sport was given by the U. S. national team'south World Cup triumph last summer.

The United States will go for its fourth straight Olympic gold medal this summer in Brazil, which should also assistance hold the spotlight on the NWSL — which features the national team's players.

"The league'south still in the growing stage," said defender Meghan Klingenberg, a newcomer to the Portland Thorns this season. "But I've number doubt it can become one of the best leagues in the world.

"If we obtain a few more international players, if we obtain a bit more money and we obtain players staying around longer than one or two years out of college, so, being able to pay them a bit better — I think there is so much potential for this league, and I'm personally excited to play because every game is a chance for me and my teammates to obtain better. And that helps everyone."

Klingenberg was portion of an offseason trade that sent national team forward Alex Morgan from Portland to the expansion Orlando Pride. Klingenberg played the past two seasons with the Houston Dash.

The league'south four-year tag also brings some questions. The U. S. national team players, who are paid by U. S. Soccer and not the league, are in a contract dispute with the federation and a grouping of them have filed a federal complaint alleging wage discrimination.

In a conference call with reporters previewing the season, national team and FC KS City defender Becky Sauerbrunn said the players weren't linking the NWSL to the labor issues.

"We're committed to playing in the league," she said.

NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush added that the league isn't going to obtain caught up in something it's number control over.

Some other things to consider when the NWSL gets below way Saturday:

OPENING WEEKEND: All ten teams are in play this weekend. On Saturday the WA Spirit play the Boston Breakers, The Western NY Flash host KS City and the Houston Dash visit the Chicago Ruddy Stars. On Sunday, the Seattle Reign visit Sky Blue FC in NJ and the Orlando Pride visit the Portland Thorns. The latter game is notable because it'll be Morgan'south first game in Portland after the offseason trade. Morgan was a founding player for the Thorns. As many as 15.000 fans are expected at Providence Park for the match.

TV DEAL: The league announced a deal this week with FOX Sports to air six games this season. FS1 will air three regular-season games, the semifinals and the championship. It's the second year the league has struck a deal with FOX to air games.

All three of the televised regular-season games arrive after the Olympics.

Plush said the deal isn't exclusive. NWSL games are also all streamed live on YouTube.

ABOUT THE OLYMPICS: The NWSL will get a crack for nearly the all mo of Aug for the Olympic Games. In addition to losing many of the U. S. national team players during the event, the league will miss many Canadian national team players who are also distributed across the league, as well as some international players — the league has players from eight of the twelve countries going to the Rio Games.

Included among the international players who could obtain call-ups for the Olympics are Australian forward Kyah Simon, who plays for the Boston Breakers, Colombia'south Lady Andrade and New Zealand'south Abby Erceg, who both play for Western New York.

EXPANSION?: Plush said that in the future he'd love to widen in pairs to support league balance. He said there is interest from both Major League Soccer teams and other entities. Some current teams with MLS partners comprise the Portland Thorns (Portland Timbers), Houston Dash (Houston Dynamo) and FC KS City (Sporting KC).

SPONSORSHIPS: While attendance and online viewership rose for the NWSL latest season following the World Cup, it didn't translate to new major sponsorships for the league, something that'll be vital to its success emotional forward. "Certainly, we necessity to indicate growth with sponsorships," Plush acknowledged.

KLINGENBERG WITH THE FINAL WORD: "I think that the players wish to be here, they wish to obtain better and they wish to be the best in the world. So when you've those types of players it feeds up into ownership," she said. "So you can look in places love in Portland they wish to be the best and they wish to create the best players in the best environment. So having types of clubs love this, and Orlando, and getting even more MLS teams involved, it'll only assistance the league obtain better. There'south so much upside to this league."

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