USL Super League gets Division 1 sanctioning, joining NWSL

The new USL Super League has been granted Division 1 sanctioning by the U.S. Soccer Federation, putting it on a par with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), it was announced Friday.

The announcement came following a vote at U.S. Soccer’s Annual General Meeting.

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“Congratulations to the USL Super League on receiving its sanctioning as a Division One professional women’s soccer league,” U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said.

“The USL Super League is looking to grow the women’s game and to expand the opportunities for women to compete at the highest professional level. As with all our professional leagues, we look forward to collaborating with the USL Super League and extend our best wishes to the clubs as they gear up for the upcoming season this August.”

The USL Super League’s inaugural season is set to begin in August with eight clubs, including a newly announced team in Brooklyn, New York.

“This is a tremendous moment for the USL Super League and for women’s sports,” USL Super League president Amanda Vandervort said. “Receiving Division One sanctioning further showcases the work that our ownership groups, our clubs, and the league are doing to create a professional environment for top-level talent to compete.

“This is a crucial step toward realizing our vision to be a global leader in women’s soccer on and off the field. We cannot wait to see our clubs take the field when we kick off in August 2024.”

Among the requirements for a D1 women’s outdoor league are that in the league’s first year there must be a minimum of eight teams in the league spread across at least two time zones. At least 75% of the league’s teams must play in metropolitan markets of at least 750,000 persons, and all league stadia must have a minimum seating capacity of 5,000.

The decision means that there are now two Division 1 women’s leagues in the U.S., with the NWSL having enjoyed that status since beginning play in 2013.

“We congratulate the USL in their efforts to launch a professional league,” the NWSL said in a statement. “We know the work and investment required. As we have seen from our record attendance, viewership, sponsorship revenue and expansion fees, the NWSL is growing at an exceptional pace, and we’re excited about our future.

“As the most competitive women’s league in the world, there are limited roster spots available in the NWSL. More opportunities to compete professionally is a good thing and we’re interested to see how a new league might contribute to the continued growth of our game.”

Vandervort told ESPN last May that the creation of the league was about meeting demand. She said that while there are over 100 professional men’s teams in the U.S., there were only 12 such teams on the women’s side, leaving what she believes is plenty of room for the two women’s leagues to coexist.

The NWSL will have two new teams this season in Bay FC in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Utah Royals. An expansion team in Boston has already been announced, with the league also working on adding a 16th team to begin play in 2026.

The full list of markets for the inaugural USL Super League season includes: Brooklyn, New York; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Lexington, Kentucky; Spokane, Washington; Tampa Bay, Florida; and Washington, D.C.