I made it less than a week. Less than a week without women’s soccer before I caved. We finished the NWSL season, the U.S. had the Korea Republic friendlies, and then I only made it five days before I sat in front of my computer screen at five in the morning and ordered my monthly subscription for the Australian Westfield W-League. And let me tell you, it was possibly one of the best decisions I’ve made all year. After watching only four minutes of the Perth Glory/Melbourne City match I knew that this was something that every NWSL fan needs in their life. The offseason feels long and ominous? Don’t worry, because it’s not the offseason at all! The NWSL may be gone, but it’s got a perfect partner on the other side of the world. If these leagues were on Tinder they would both be swiping right. Because they fit. And they need each other. And together they help promote women’s soccer even more. So yeah, I ship this pair, and you should too. But in case you need more persuading, here’s five reasons why they work so well together:
The NWSL and the W-League are like the sun and the moon. They are never out at the same time, but we need them both here on earth. No one wants to wait for another match to watch, and they certainly don’t want to wait six months. Luckily, this pairing keeps us safe from that danger. The NWSL season runs from April to mid October. And then the W-League runs from late October through February, which is just in time for players to have a short break and return to NWSL preseason camps once again. It’s a virtuous and amazing cycle that leaves the players in both leagues constantly playing and the fans (and opposite league and club management) constantly paying attention to what is happening around the soccer world.
Show Me The Young Guns
The W-League offers an amazing opportunity to NWSL and other international players of all ages, but it’s the young players who seem to benefit the most. This may be because most young players are not bogged down by National Team camps. That means they don’t have to worry about the daunting task of a 22-hour flight home to go play for their country. They get to keep a schedule, mesh with their teammates, and see the different style of play that Australia brings to the table. It also gives these young players more experience, which will only benefit them more when they return to the NWSL after their W-League season is over. But it’s not just a place for young players. It also features some serious talent, from Jess Fishlock to Sam Kerr to the majority of the Australian National Team. So yes, Ashley Hatch, current NWSL Rookie of the Year, may be hanging out in Melbourne to get more experience, but she is also facing some of the fiercest competition of her life…and playing on a team whose roster looks like it belongs at an all-star game.
Exposure For Aussies
Probably the best thing about the W-League being promoted so much is the exposure it brings for Australian players. Because it isn’t just the fans who are paying attention, but every manager, coach, and club that has a player across the Pacific Ocean in the W-League. And it’s impossible to only watch NWSL assets when there is so much amazing Australian talent on display. I don’t know about you, but I could use another Sam Kerr, or Haley Raso, or Lydia Williams in the NWSL. After all, the Aussies are on fire lately, and their National Team is only getting better and better. And let’s face it, they are entertaining as hell to watch. So if them getting a bit more exposure means that I can see a few more of them play here in America for a couple months of the year, that’s great news for everyone. Heck, if they aren’t too proud to play for a maximum salary of 45k in the NWSL then I would take all of the Matildas that I could get. The more that people get to watch them, and the more that players get to play them, the better the game will become.
Keeping the Team Together (and apart)
Another great thing about the W-League is that we get to see some really great combinations of NWSL players still playing with familiar faces from back in the States. Take for example the Perth Glory. Somehow, Sam Kerr got to take both Nikki Stanton and Raquel Rodriguez with her from Sky Blue, and now they are on the verge of doing some amazing things in Perth. Don’t believe me? Believe Sam Kerr’s fourth minute goal assisted by Stanton in their opening match of the season. So, if you are a Sky Blue fan, you should be really excited to see what this trio brings back to New Jersey, and what kind of chemistry they continue to develop on the field while in Perth.
And there are also some fun arrangements in the other direction: not combinations that stick together but NWSL teammates who are now split apart. Look at the Chicago Red Stars. Arin Gilliland plays for the Newcastle Jets, while her Red Star teammates Alyssa Mautz, Danielle Colaprico, and Katie Naughton play for Adelaide United. Do you not think that they will play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses? I do. And I also think it will be a great match to watch on November 25.
Staying in Form
Perhaps the most important factor that benefits the players of both leagues is that playing in both the NWSL and the W-League allows players to stay in top physical form. No one is going to have to worry if a player shlubbed off their offseason workouts and didn’t stick to the greatest diet for a professional athlete. These players are hitting the field everyday and honing their skills even more. The only potential issue that both leagues need to worry about is whether a player will get injured while playing in the other. And this makes that rest period in between leagues crucial. It also means that these players need to really listen to their bodies when they are telling them something is wrong. It’s safer to rest than to push through and cause a bigger injury that could affect their playing status in both leagues.
Perhaps the only downside of following the Westfield W-League from the United States is the time difference. Because of my work schedule I think nothing of watching a match at four in the morning, but I know that is not the norm. Still, the streaming packages from OZ are a great deal – $2.99 per match, or $4.99 per month for all the matches. I went monthly, and I would recommend that if you want to at least watch one match per week. And at least one match is on at an appropriate time to view…well, 7 a.m. isn’t that bad. Still, for anyone looking to get their WoSo fix, I would highly recommend the W-League. It is the natural fit and progression from the NWSL and you are going to be cheering for a lot of the same players that you were just last month. So check it out. It’s time to watch the amazing skill and entertainment Australia has to offer. And hopefully, when it is the NWSL’s turn to return the favor, we can do so with a few more Aussies here in America, and an even tighter bond between the two leagues.