What is WISL?

The Women’s Independent Soccer League (WISL) will be a Division II professional league. There are still too few professional opportunities for women after graduating from the college game. What drives WISL is that it is founded on a vision, mission and core cultural values. WISL will be additive to providing women opportunities (playing / coaching / owning) in the game. Ultimately, WISL will play a role in growing skills on the pitch and in the front office.

What does Division II mean?

Soccer (or football … or Futbol … or calcio) throughout the world is set up in different tiers. As of Fall 2022, there is only one tier (the Division I National Women’s Soccer League or NWSL) in American women’s professional soccer with 10 clubs. That needs to change, as we know there is more than enough talent in America alone. Recognizing the hard work NWSL has put in to further establish the professional women’s game, WISL seeks to be complementary – providing another platform for players, coaches, officials and front office – to prove what they can do.

What standards do clubs need to meet to join WISL?

WISL will follow U.S. Soccer’s Pro League Standards for club inclusion. The primary elements include more than half of clubs must play in metropolitan markets of at least 500,000 people, a stadium that seats at least 2,000, owners with appropriate investment to fully support the club, full-time front-office staff employed in several critical roles. Importantly, all of this represents more opportunities for women on the pitch and in the front office. For more information, please contact us.

What is different about an independent-based soccer league?

WISL is a league of independent clubs, not franchises, built on the international model. There are more opportunities for clubs to represent communities instead of markets. Clubs also have a much bigger voice in how they run themselves and control their intellectual property. While club dues are required each season, WISL has removed the barrier to entry that the franchise fee represents. For more information please contact us.

Your mission references ‘women-driven’. Will all owners/coaches/staff have to be women?

No. Everyone is welcome to seek a role in the league. However, WISL leans heavily into providing opportunities to women who have wanted to own, coach or work in a professional club. What is important to WISL is that it is founded on a vision, mission and core cultural values. One of those values is to ensure and promote diversity, equity and inclusion. WISL will require every club to interview a minimum of two qualified, external female and/or minority candidates for any open position.

When will WISL’s first season start?

WISL earning sanctioning from U.S. Soccer will determine when we play, but we are targeting 2024. What is most important is to ensure we have a strong footing, a strong field, and real opportunities to advance the women’s game on the field and the front offices. That means taking the right amount of time to build the right league staff and gather the strongest field of clubs that we can.

What does leadership at league level look like?

WISL recently engaged with soccer industry veteran Lynn Berling-Manuel as Managing Director. She had previously been providing strategic development consulting for the league. Lynn will lead the league’s sanctioning application for Division II status ahead of WISL’s inaugural season, and she will play a role in identifying the league’s commissioner. For more background information about Lynn, please check her interview that will be available on the WISL Homepage in the coming days. 

How many clubs do you see participating?

U.S. Soccer’s Professional League Standards require Division II women’s leagues to have a minimum of six clubs to apply for sanctioning. The league is then required to grow to eight clubs by Year Three. There is strength in numbers, and we expect to launch with more than the minimum. We will take the time to build the strongest field that we can, creating the most opportunities that we can.

Is demand for women’s pro soccer so much stronger now than it was in the 2000s?

There is more than enough room for another professional women’s soccer league in the U.S. The talent is there, equitable opportunities are not. WISL will expand the opportunities for development on the field and in the front offices here in the U.S.   

How many clubs are ready to make the jump to pro from amateur?
There are amateur women’s clubs in the U.S. that are already operating at a professional level and have pro-level talent on their teams. But, more to the point, while there are several professional and amateur leagues for men across North America, there still is a huge gap between the college and professional ranks on the women’s side. Our development of a new women’s pro league provides what’s really missing – more opportunity, both on the pitch and in the front office. Get more information on how you can recommend an amateur club from your community for WISL here.
How will the WISL professional league relate with NWSL?

WISL will be a complement to NWSL. The United States has the deepest pool of soccer talent in the world. Our investment in a new Division II helps close the opportunity gap that currently exists on the women’s side of professional soccer. WISL will be a league of independent clubs that provides numerous new opportunities for players, coaches, officials, owners and communities to get involved in the world’s No.1 sport that currently only exist in major metropolitan markets.