Summer Fun for Women’s and Men’s Soccer?
In the race to be the first U.S. team sport to restart play this year, the National Women's Soccer League seems to have taken the inside track. Their nine teams resumed small group training this week, with full team training to resume Saturday, building toward a June 27 start, and a monthlong season played at two stadiums in Salt Lake City. It could really do a lot for the struggling NWSL to be the only game in town for at least a couple of weekends – especially building on the U.S. Women's success at last year's Women's World Cup, since all 23 members of that championship squad play in the NWSL. Reports are, though, that a number of those USWNT players may sit out the mini-season, out of health concerns both about the virus, and about the schedule: potentially seven games in four weeks, all on turf fields, with a short training time.
Those are the same sorts of working conditions that are a big part of the women's ongoing equal-pay lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. On the flip side, one reason the USWNT players may feel comfortable sitting out the season is that the national team guarantees their salaries for the year, with or without the league games – unlike the men, who make the bulk of their income from their more lucrative club contracts.
On the men's side, Major League Soccer seemed very bush league this week, as The Athletic leaked a secret memo from MLS Commissioner Don Garber, threatening all clubs and personnel with disciplinary action, including firing and fines up to $1 million, for anyone who leaked any more secret information to The Athletic about the league's restart plans. The plan for a tournament-style restart in July in Orlando has been an open secret for several weeks now, despite Garber's inexpliably fevered insistence that there's nothing to see behind the curtain.
Locally, of course, leagues are canceled and fields are closed through the summer; we'll see about fall.