Hartford Athletic is excited to be one of eight founding members of the newly formed USL W League. The League will begin play in 2022 and will provide an elite pre-professional pathway for women looking to build their careers both on and off the pitch.
“We created Hartford Athletic to do big things for our community and to accomplish economically, socially, and culturally broad objectives. The W League is another exciting opportunity for us to make an impact here in Connecticut,” said Hartford Athletic Chairman Bruce Mandell. “We are thrilled to provide playing opportunities for top women’s college and high school players in our professional environment and dedicated to creating pathways for women looking to build their careers both on and off the pitch. We’re very proud to be working with the USL to make this a reality.”
The USL W League is a pre-professional women’s soccer league set to kick off play in May 2022. It will serve as the nation’s premier pre-professional league developing the next generation of women’s soccer talent both on and off the field. The USL W League strives to use women’s soccer as a force for societal good by creating a national platform to increase opportunity, gender equity, and career development.
A pre-professional league is one in which all players competing have an amateur status. The USL W League will respect the amateur status of its players and focus on developing the next wave of elite talent while using best-in-class resources and infrastructure to bring elements of professionalism to this new opportunity for women’s soccer players. With the addition of the USL W League, the USL now operates two pre-professional leagues, the other being USL League Two on the men’s side.
USL owners from across the Championship, League One and League Two have for several years shared their desire for a women’s platform. This, combined with the fact that USL has been involved in the women’s game before made it an easy decision for league leadership. Further, the USL W League highlights USL’s commitment to investing in women’s sports, with the League and each of our member clubs uniting around our mission to increase gender equity and opportunity. This new era of the USL W League supports the development of the USL’s female pathway, complimenting the League’s youth offerings in the USL Academy Cup and Super Y League.
The USL W League is a pre-professional league that enhances the women’s soccer pipeline between college and professional soccer by providing more opportunities for women to play, coach, and work in soccer. The League is collaborating with key stakeholders and organizations in the women’s game to collectively advance women’s soccer, and we believe the more opportunities there are for women’s players to compete at a high level, the better. As a pre-professional league, we are focused on developing the next wave of elite women’s soccer talent to support the growth of soccer at all levels. It is our goal to see USL W League alumnae competing in professional leagues and for their national teams as their careers progress – on the field, on the sidelines, and in the front office.
From its formation until 1995 until the start of the Women’s United Soccer Association, the first U.S. professional league, in 2001, the USL W-League was the top flight of women's soccer in the United States. It returned to that status upon the folding of the WUSA following the 2003 season and remained the top flight – all as a semi-professional league – until 2009. For two decades between 1995 and 2015, the W League saw some of the biggest names, past and present, in the sport compete on the field and also provided a platform for current top executives and coaches both in the United States and overseas to build their pathway in the game. Using women’s soccer as a force for societal good, the new era of the USL W League will take a holistic approach to build on the legacy of its predecessor and continue to provide new opportunities for women and the women’s game by investing time, attention, and needed resources to support the growth of women’s soccer.
With the goal of 30 teams in its inaugural season, the USL W League will provide more than 750 opportunities for women to play, coach, and work in elite women’s soccer, as well provide fans across the country with more access to the women’s game. The USL W League will also provide more opportunities for women to remain in the sport once their playing careers are over by offering professional education in coaching, talent identification, club operations, front office management and others area of the business.
The USL W League will kick off in May 2022.
We expect to have at least 30 teams compete in the USL W League’s inaugural season, comprised of clubs from across the USL Championship, USL League One, and USL League Two. The USL is excited to also welcome new operators to the USL W League family, reinforcing our commitment to creating more opportunities and bringing elite women’s soccer to communities across the U.S.
The W represents the League’s mission to elevate and empower women, celebrating the continued advancements of women’s sports while acknowledging the work still to be done. The W is at the heart of the League’s branding, in name and tagline, reaffirming our commitment to investing in and supporting women.
The USL W League’s core values of opportunity, equity, and inclusivity highlight our mission to advance women’s soccer and support all women who love the beautiful game. As a League, we are committed to creating more for the women of today and tomorrow. Complimenting the USL’s emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the W reinforces a commitment to increase opportunities for women in soccer and throughout the USL ecosystem.