The NWSL needs more players like Daphne Corboz.
And while I could write a piece about her skill on the ball, her ability to find open players, and the connections she’s building with the Sky Blue forwards, that isn’t what I mean.
No, we need more players like Corboz because she is currently playing on a team that was her team growing up in New Jersey. A team she has followed for nearly a decade, during which time they played in two different top-tier leagues, as well as a second tier league (the W-League) when they partnered with the New Jersey Wildcats.
I was able to travel down to New Jersey to watch the team practice and managed to get some time to speak with Corboz afterward.
Backline Soccer: You were drafted by Sky Blue, went overseas, came back to Sky Blue. Does that sort of right to you? That you ended up where you sort started, that fate sort of guided you back to the Sky Blue that drafted you?
Corboz: Yeah. They drafted me, they knew I was going overseas, they wanted my rights. But I always wanted to play for Sky Blue. I grew up watching Sky Blue and I think that when I decided to leave Manchester City and I wanted to return to the NWSL, there was no doubt that Sky Blue was the team I wanted to join. And I’m really thankful for that.
Backline Soccer: Is it something that more people are going to have? Growing up with a team and having the ability to be a fan as a kid and then play for them one day? We haven’t really had that the way the leagues have been in and out.
Corboz: Yeah, I really hope so. I think that I’ve already said that how lucky I was to have a club in New Jersey to look up to when I was in high school. And afterward, when I was in college I’d come back and watch the team and train with the team. So I feel very fortunate that a franchise was in my area, but also I think it’s really important to have role models and to actually take advantage of the fact that we do have a league in this country and you can learn a lot from watching.
There are players out there right now–teenagers, maybe high schoolers–who are just starting to figure out whether pro soccer might be in their future. And they’re picking their favorite NWSL team. The team they want to play on one day.
When a women’s soccer team folds, it not only hurts the league in the moment. It also takes away a club that some of those younger players might have been dreaming about playing for one day.
There are 15-year-olds in Orlando and Houston and Seattle right now that will one day be good enough to play in the NWSL. Those players, and players from all ten NWSL cities, have a chance to do what Corboz has done: step out on the pitch wearing the same crest that they used to wear as a fan in the stands. That is an indescribable benefit of the league that can not be undersold or underestimated.
In 2027, when the NWSL is fifteen years old, I hope we have a league full of Daphne Corbozes. I hope we have a league full of players who grew up with the NWSL being their childhood dream. Who grew up and were finally drafted and issued the uniform they dreamed of. Who can wear the crest of their hometown club proudly over their heart.
Here’s to a better-paid future of fans turning into players turning into those who don’t have to fight the same battles as this generation.