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The Week in Women's Football: What does the future look like in a post-Coronavirus world?

This week, we discuss the future of women's soccer in a post-Coronavirus world. Within this piece, we also announce that the semi-professional Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) in North America has cancelled its 2020 summer season, while leaving open the possibility of running a fall season if college soccer does not start up as typical in late August, as about 7 in 10 WPSL players are active college players. We also talk about women's leagues becoming a test for rule changes, much as was done before Major League Soccer started in 1996, which this reporter had a major role in analysing.



The Future of Women's Soccer—Some Thoughts and Worrisome Possibilities

The coronavirus global pandemic has completely changed our view of the world and everything about our normal lives is upside down—our jobs, our finances, our health, our kid's schooling, how we communicate with others, etc. With so many people around the world either losing their jobs or seeing significant reduction in their salaries, we are scarcely able to predict what the future will bring. There are terrible things that people are struggling to cope with every day and watching sports fails in comparison. Effective antiviral drugs, effective testing and ultimately a vaccine must be available to everyone before we can talk about returning to how we lived in 2019 and early 2020. Sports though are viewed now as a normalization benchmark and a nice distraction to have to look forward to, however leagues must not come back too soon, which is difficult as they all face severe economic pressures to restart as well as a social need for more entertainment, while not placing players under risk from exposure to the Coronavirus or physical difficulties with too many games in a reduced period of time or insufficient training before the games begin.

For women's football in particular, we want to look at some possibilities in the future, particularly vis-à-vis the imminent restart of men's soccer in some markets (i.e. Germany, Hungary, Denmark) and other professional sports leagues (i.e. NBA, NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball in North America, which are expected to play this summer/fall). In the U.S., the NWSL, Major League Soccer and USL Championship sides have begun to return to training, though it is still limited to small groups and without coaching. We will look at one NWSL club's process in returning in the weeks to come.

Some people are finding it hard to accept but sports leagues—including high school and college play—will look radically different in 2020 and 2021 and perhaps beyond that. We wanted to look at how women's soccer in particular is at risk, predict what we might see in the months ahead and what can be done to ensure that the sport bounces back to the strong level it was at in 2019.


Professional players will face salary reductions

As many of us are facing, professional players will undoubtedly see short-term pay reductions or even job losses, particular in 2020, as some leagues have to reduce the number of games played and clubs struggle with lower fan, sponsorship and television/online revenue. England international and OL Reign FC striker Jodie Taylor was asked if she had friends in the game who were concerned about losing their jobs and she replied, "I don't think anybody feels safe at this time. Nobody really knows how long this [Coronavirus pandemic] is going to last for. So as much as I believe our league and club here are being as transparent as they can, who knows what the future will bring. It's a stressful reality and one that we're all sitting back and waiting for. It's very unknown." Scotland international and Arsenal midfielder Kim Little—who played at the Seattle Reign in the NWSL—said on the subject, "A lot of players are in very vulnerable positions [right now during the pandemic]." Women's salaries are on average much lower than men's in the game and their contracts tend to be typically annually (averaging just over a year in length), while in some European countries, they can be even of a shorter time period than that to start. A recent report found that professional women's football players globally earned less than US$600 a month in salary after taxes.

There will also be less money for transfer fees, which we started to see late last year in the NWSL—specifically for internationals—as well as fewer high salaries to win talent against a club from another country. In addition, cash is a priority now in every household and attending games will be very difficult economically at first until job situations stabilize for many, as well as spending money for internet sports streaming services and pay-TV channels, some of which are being developed to target the women's game specifically. Companies could look to reduce or completely end their sponsorships, corporate seats and game-related spending across the board for sports—how many and how much they will cut for women's soccer specifically is an unknown at this point but it could be substantial. In China, which took the brunt of the Coronavirus pandemic earlier than other countries, a half of million businesses went bankrupt in Quarter 1—which unfortunately is a trend that we expect to see in other countries as they deal with the pandemic aftermath.

One sports economist in the U.S.—Patrick Rishe at Washington University—described the current and never before seen effect of the pandemic on sports as "carnage" and could result in a "$12 billion loss in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs," with losses twice that if College Football (see below) and the NFL do not play this fall.



A Reduction of Imports in Leagues Abroad and NWSL

As a result of budget tightening, we may see more domestic players in leagues around the world while imports—typically coming at a higher cost with airfare, living expenses and sometimes salaries—may find playing positions difficult to acquire. Imports bring different skills and help advance the level of play, particularly among young domestic players. We have been following this of late in Scotland as more teams professionalize heading into the 2020 season; see: (https://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-scotland-focus-rangers-celtic-turn-professional-international-players-arrive-4322415). This will hurt scores of young North Americans looking to go abroad such as recently featured Madeline Gotta, who played at Gonzaga University last season, went undrafted by NWSL clubs and signed with Zaragoza in Division 2 in Spain (see https://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-i...). North Americans college graduates typically dot many teams in Sweden in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 but this is likely to change at least short-term, with some players unwilling to travel abroad over the next several months and playing positions likely to be much harder to come by. Also, the players that are already signed may have to pay their own expenses as club budgets could become very tight. This will also particularly slam New Zealand's Football Ferns and Australia's Matildas, who go abroad in scores, particularly since their leagues are short seasons and not perceived at a level comparable to the NWSL or top European leagues—Australian national team players have acknowledged that national team coaches want to see them play in full-time leagues (i.e. Europe) even at the expense of playing the three month W-League season at home, particularly after last summer's disappointing Round of 16 Matildas exit to Norway on penalty kicks at the Women's World Cup in France, when 9 of the 23 roster players primary club at the time was a W-League side, even though the season had ended 4 months before the France tournament.



Funding for Women's Teams Aligned with Men's Clubs Could Face Severe Cuts

The soccer world is struggling in all aspects but very little has been written about women's leagues plans (which has been focused primarily on the FA Super League in England and the NWSL) while the focus of reporting is on MLS, EPL, Serie A,Bundesliga, etc. We have seen that, when men's teams face budget struggles in the past, the women see it in their reduced funding allocations. Men's soccer will struggle as well for the foreseeable future (France recently cancelled the rest of the 2019-20 Ligue 1 men's season) so it's not gender specific in theory, but we worry that if there are needs on both the men's top level side and the women's side, the men will be preferred as it will be justified as the quickest way to make up the revenue deficit in total, since the men's clubs attract more fans, media attention and sponsorships, while development of and investment in the women's game will lag behind. In Colombia (which is bidding to host the Women's World Cup in 2023), Independiente Santa Fe recently suspended all player contracts for its women's soccer team but only instituted pay cuts for the men's side. The women's players can continue to pay—and undoubtedly some will—but how long will their salaries be furloughed? We have seen this practice by international and domestic for-profit companies for years when they have faced bleak financial times, but when things improve, restoring employees' base salaries and incentives tends to be adjusted or restored more slowly. Of course, no one has seen a situation like this since the Great Depression in the 1930's. Amanda Vandervort, chief women's football officer for FIFPro and a former consultant to WPS, MLS and international federations on internet technology and utilization, is one of the most articulate and positive spokespersons you will ever find about women's football and she recently expressed grave misgivings about the game coming out of the pandemic, "We do have concerns about investments in the women's game being dropped or reduced or pre-crisis investments being withdrawn, ultimately, from the women's game. We're concerned that decision-makers might ignore the needs of women or exclude women's football from recovering support programs."

FIFA President Gianni Infantino pledged to invest $1 Billion in the women's game over the next four years after last summer's successful WWC in France. He re-emphasized that commitment in late April, "In line with the FIFA Women's Football Strategy and FIFA's long-term vision for the development of women's football, this funding will be invested into a range of areas in the women's game including competitions, capacity building, development programs, governance and leadership, professionalization and technical programs. We can confirm that this funding has already been committed by FIFA and will not be impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis." FIFA does have cash reserves of almost US$3 Billion, but undoubtedly there will be many requests to tap into that from national federations and other constituents and that savings could go quickly.

Note: The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 25% to 30% of American youth soccer clubs (which typically serve both males and females) could fold by the time club play resumes, which may not be this summer in many states.



Revenue Sources Could Be Tight for the Women's Game for Years to Come

The profitability of the last two Women's World Cups in Canada and France, plus the decision to expand WWC2023 from 24 to 32 teams, were signs of increased flows of money into the women's game—through internet and domestic television, sponsorships and increasing gate receipts—particularly for federation funding of national teams as well as leagues and teams. Women's programs have fought successfully for increased national team salaries and benefits, from Norway to the Republic of Ireland to Denmark and Finland in Europe, to Australia, New Zealand and the States, and even in Africa we are seeing increases in salaries for women (i.e. Kenya). That could all go off the rails, as Federations will be strapped as a result of the pandemic but will all cuts to all national teams, leagues be equal for both genders? Unfortunately, we doubt it.

Three Chinese Players try to contain American midfielder Morgan Brian in on the sideline—Late 2015. Photo Courtesy: Arianna Grainey—Arianna Grainey Photography.

One league's player association in Europe was optimistic that they could raise funds through a Gofundme.com campaign and from donations from men's teams, but a delayed attempt to raise sponsorships in the business community in 2019 may be one of those decisions that they will regret for years. With one-third to up to one-half of businesses expected to fail in the U.S., and automotive sales forecasts for the year plummeting and not expected to revive much into Quarters 3 and 4, the result of the extreme economic unknown around the world is that sponsorships and donations with unsubstantiated or no ROI information will no longer work. Women's soccer sales people have increasingly been able to show ROI, but they will be under heightened pressure to do so in their future sales pitches.

Soccer people travel, both at the youth and senior levels, but the hospitality industry has been gutted; a survey of the International Air Transportation Association reported 40 percent of recent passengers said they may wait at least six months after the outbreak is contained to travel again and almost 70 percent said they may stop traveling until their finances improve.

NWSL has a very impressive, brand new commissioner in Lisa Baird, who has extensive sports fundraising experience, but her job became exponentially more difficult in her first month on the job in March of 2020 as the momentum from France 2019 WWC evaporated due to nothing that she, the league or the sport did.

We expect that minor league clubs in all sports in North America (including hockey, baseball and soccer, some of which are in very small communities) will fold as they are so dependent on gate revenue/parking/concessions, particularly if leagues start in 2020 or 2021 with closed stadiums or restrictions on the number of fans who can attend, as social distancing guidelines seem certain to be implemented for the foreseeable future.

As part of this potential Armageddon to minor leagues, the WPSL teams with 131 teams in 2020 and the UWS, which added a second developmental league for 2020—both are summer amateur leagues which attract many college players and internationals as well—typically have limited budgets to begin with (some are extensions of youth clubs which as we said above, could face some difficult times ahead); I shudder at the thought of how many of these smaller franchises—both men's and women's—will fold in Europe and other regions of the world (see more below).



College Soccer and All Collegiate Sports are in Very Trying Times

Collegiate soccer in the States—such a key developer of talent for women in the U.S., Canada and from other nations—is facing the challenge of other 'minor sports' at colleges, (such as baseball, softball, track and field, lacrosse, etc.) that are able to operate only from the huge revenues coming from men's football (gridiron), men's basketball and to a lesser extent from women's basketball. The highly profitable 2020 NCAA Men's Basketball March Madness Tournament with 68 schools was expected to bring in more than $800 Million this year, but was cancelled this spring [the women's tournament also was cancelled, along with all spring college sports] while insurance covered just $270 million of the loss. College football may lose its fall season, or have to do a fall-spring split season with limited training, attendances and resultant revenue.

Two Arizona State University defenders surround Cal-State University Forward in 2016 cross-state non-conference match—Photo Courtesy: Arianna Grainey, Arianna Grainey Photography.

Some schools athletic directors proposed cutting certain sports at a national level as a result of the pandemic. David Berri, a sports economist and professor at Southern Utah University—who I have talked to late last year about women's professional sports financial models and marketing plans—said, "If the program was viable before this [pandemic] took place, then it will be viable after this takes place. So that suggests to me is what's going on here is athletic directors are using this as an excuse. I just don't buy the argument that in response to a temporary crisis you need to cut an entire program. If you were interested in cutting things, there are things in football and men's basketball that you could cut." Women's sports boosters were particularly aggrieved as an exception from the strict Title IX rules, which require equal spending and opportunities for women's sports, could be difficult to reinstate—a key rule of negotiations is 'you don't give up hard-earned wins without a key concession in return.' Women's soccer could be targeted as they have fairly large squads, 14 full scholarships available at most schools (compared to 9.9 for men's teams), and many college's women's squads travel across the country, particularly for non-conference, early-season tournaments. The University of Cincinnati dropped their men's program in mid-April, which had been in existence since 1972, in a move to reduce expenditures—the program reportedly lost three-quarters of a Million Dollars in 2019. Other non-revenue sports at other universities received the message loud and clear. University of Cincinnati's women's program was not affected however. Virtually all schools in the U.S., including high schools and grade schools, are doing remote learning as campuses closed in March. Some colleges and universities are planning on slowly going back to face-to-face classes this fall, but until then, campuses are effectively closed with no dorm living for students. Sports of any kind cannot start until students return.


WPSL Suspends 2020 Summer Season—but Could Run a Fall League, If…

Interestingly, the WPSL (see above) announced on April 30 that they were cancelling their 2020 summer season due to the Coronavirus global pandemic, while still exploring options for the fall. The latter took me by surprise as the WPSL and USL are summer amateur leagues in which high school and college athletes can compete against internationals and former professionals without losing their college eligibility, and in many cases valuable scholarships to pay for school. In a normal year, WPSL teams would lose over two-thirds of their rosters back to college programs (some teams in the past have made the playoffs held in mid-August but couldn't compete as colleges had called their players back early for preseason training.) WPSL President Sean Jones said that, "We went through all scenarios possible in order to get our players on the field this summer and complete a national season. However, it became apparent that to play matches in certain areas of the country in June and July would be irresponsible and a potential health risk." WPSL clubs can still apply for league sanctioned summer training and friendlies as long as medical professionals and their state deem that they are safe environments.

FC Pacific in WPSL action against FC Del Sol in Phoenix in 2016—Photo Courtesy: Arianna Grainey, Arianna Grainey Photography.

The WPSL is exploring options for a fall season if the traditional fall collegiate season is cancelled. WPSL Commissioner Rich Sparling said, "Should the college seasons be postponed to the late fall or spring semester, the WPSL is in prime position to provide a structured platform for student-athletes to continue to train and compete in a competitive environment to be properly prepared for their upcoming collegiate seasons. However, we do not expect a decision for the next 30-to-60 days." It's a laudable idea but the logistics and organization would be extensive and may be not possible for the WPSL (which has teams in 35 states and Canada) to accomplish in such a short period of time. In addition, with WPSL sides, they draw players from different colleges—even within a state. One question for this plan is would that still be possible in a Fall Season or will they have to draw from just one college—currently a team can only sign five from any one Division I school in the summer? A source with the league confirmed that, in a one-off event in 2020—if it happened—the player qualification rules would be determined and modified from the regular summer program.



FIFA Major Events Altered

FIFA's international calendar has seen major changes over the past month or so, with more undoubtedly on the way. The 2020 FIFA age group Women's World Cups (U-17 in India and U-20 in Costa Rica/Panama) will not take place this year. The 2020 Olympics are now scheduled for Summer 2021 in Japan and the Women's European Championships—originally set for 2021 as it is held every 4 years between the Women' World Cup cycle—will bump forward to July 2022 and will still be hosted by England. The move was made in part so that the women's event does not compete against the men's Euro, originally set for this summer but also pushed back a year to 2021.

Alex Morgan Dribbling in on Goal for the U.S. against China—Late 2015. Photo Courtesy: Arianna Grainey—Arianna Grainey Photography.

UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said that the confederation, "considered all options" and the move to 2022 is about, "ensuring that our flagship women's competition will be the only major football tournament of the summer, providing it with the spotlight it deserves. UEFA's chief of women's football and former Germany international Nadine Kessler said, "This decision puts us in a position to deliver a tournament that attracts global attention, maximizes media coverage and increases stadium attendances, and is therefore helping us to meet our core objective of inspiring the next generation of footballers. 2022 also allows for further promotion and partner activation, which would have been much more difficult in what is now a crowded summer in 2021. It is a clear sign of commitment to our dedicated partners who have joined us since we decided to separate the sponsorship of women's football from men's football."

The problem with the Women's EURO move is that it will now be held during a men's World Cup year—2022 in Qatar, though that event is scheduled for November and December due to the extreme heat conditions there in the summer, unless that is ultimately shifted down the line as well.

Copa America (men's) in South America [CONMEBOL Federation]—held every 2 years—was also postponed a year until 2021, which will be hosted by more than one country for the first time in Colombia and Argentina. The expanded FIFA World Club Cup (men's) with 24 teams was due to be held in 2021 but is postponed and will be rescheduled.

Yet to be determined is will the next Women's World Cup be held in the summer of 2023 or will it have to be delayed, due to a long recovery period worldwide from the pandemic? The winning host will also face a reduced (insufficient?) period of time to plan and organize the games, as now a final decision on the host of the Finals—originally to be decided at the next FIFA Congress in June in Ethiopia—was delayed until mid-September.



Are There Any Positives for the Women's Game and What Can Be Done?

With all of the above concerns and worries, are there any positive aspects that we can hang onto without feeling that the women's game will become a complete afterthought as businesses start to open up when we move into the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere? Well first, having followed the game since it started in the States in the mid-1980s and reported on it since early this century, the women's game has an incredible ability to make huge strides quickly, reducing the gap on the men's game or making advances in their own right, such as players going abroad, the rapid increase in the number of WWC participants, growing national team attendances around the world, player agents, transfer fees, etc. So we know that cutting-edge thinking will help the game to survive and again thrive—we just don't have a time table…yet.

Everyone in the women's game must continue to advocate for the game, now more than ever. Key executives of leagues, teams and youth clubs—as well as players—must be very persistent in looking for opportunities for revenue sources, particularly through sponsorships and advertising, which admittedly will be slow to ramp up as the pandemic was so devastating to businesses in most sectors.

One area that could help would be for women's leagues to adapt FIFA-approved rule change tests. It has already been suggested that FIFA rules would allow up to 5 substitutes during a 90-minute game (an increase from the current 3) short-term as games resume, to take into account that teams have not had formal training sessions together and players have had limited ball work for some time. FIFA said in a statement, "One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload. Each team would now be given the possibility to use up to five substitutions during the match, with the possibility of an additional substitution remaining during extra time, where relevant." The substitutes could take place at halftime or during a maximum of three stoppages to prevent the maximum of 10 (or 12) subs from slowing the game down excessively.

This reporter conducted a major rules change test for U.S. Soccer, Major League Soccer and the USISL (then the second tier Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues in North America—now USL Championship—and which started the highly influential W-League in 1995 that ran through 2015) in 1994 that involved 10 different rule changes. I analyzed the changes that were implemented by division in the then 72 team league (32 of which were expansion sides) in eight regional divisions during the 1994 summer season to determine if Major League Soccer (then scheduled to start in 1995 but later the launch was delayed a year to assist in planning for the ten 10 team league which is now 26 teams, with expansion franchises awarded for 2021 and 2020 which will take the league to 30 teams) should adopt any of the 10 suggested rules changes, with FIFA's approval ultimately needed. At the time, soccer fans reacted negatively to the 1990 World Cup in Italy—one of the dullest on record—with an all-time low goal scoring average of 2.21 and down appreciably from Mexico 1986's 2.54 average (while Russia in 2018 averaged 2.64) and only 56 minutes a game of live action or effective playing time. On the other hand, the World Cup that summer of 1994 was a tremendous success in the U.S. (2.71 goals per game and the best scoring figure to date since 1982 in Spain recorded 2.81 goals per game) and brought many new fans to the game as well as those familiar with it from their or their parents' home countries, the vast majority of which wanted to watch more soccer played under traditional rules. U.S. Soccer had a mandate to start a professional league from FIFA as part of the award of the rights to host the 1994 World Cup in 1988. There had not been a full national league since the North American Soccer League (NASL) ran from 1967 through 1984.

Mexico celebrates a goal against Honduras in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Photo Courtesy: Arianna Grainey—Arianna Grainey Photography.

Interestingly I co-authored the report with former NASL Commissioner Phil Woosnam, a former Welsh international who played with Leyton Orient, West Ham United and Aston Villa in the 50's and 60's, who sadly passed away in 2013. He was brilliant to work with and entertained me with a number of stories from his NASL days and coaching abroad. The rule changes that the USISL implemented that year and that we analyzed after the season included:

  • Bigger Goals—from the standard size of 24'by 8' to 25'6'' by 8'6'' or 28' by 8'6''
  • A Seventh Team Foul Resulting in a Live Shootout (see below) or Top of the Arc Free Kick for the other team
  • If defensive players encroach within 10 yards of a free kick, a yellow card was issued and the players were moved aback to 15 yards (this rule was in effect only within 35 yards of the opponent's goal)
  • Penalizing Professional Fouls (fouls from behind on a player who broke through defense. if it occurred outside of the penalty area). These were penalized with a red card and a live shootout (a one-on-one attempt between an offensive player starting from 35 yards from goal with 5 seconds to shoot against only a goalkeeper)
  • Fifth Individual Foul in a game resulted in player being ejected
  • Short and Long Corner Kicks, depending on where the ball went out of play. A short corner was taken from a one yard semi-circle at the intersection of the penalty area line and end line, when the ball went out of play between the goal and penalty are line (22 yards from goal)
  • Throw-in or Kick-in Option (which had been tested around that time in the minor leagues in England, Hungary, Belgium and at the 1993 U-17 World Cup for men)
  • 60 minute game clock controlled by at timekeeper like in the NBA or NHL in North America
  • Tie games decided on corner kicks
  • Counting corner kicks gave an additional standing point (6 points were given for a win in regulation or overtime, 4 points for a shootout win, 2 points for a shootout loss and one bonus point for each goal (not including shootout goals to decide a win) up to three per game, similar to the NASL's 6 points for a win, 3 for a tie and 1 for each goal up to three).

Rules changes were apportioned across the divisions, so that we had control divisions without changes to measure the tests against. The larger goals were difficult to implement universally as they require specific dimensions and are not practical except on a limited basis for a sport in which you can literally find goals almost literally anywhere around the world. We did find that the larger goals increased scoring somewhat, 5.0 per game for the largest test goals and 4.8 for the division with the smaller test goals, with the control divisions averaging 4.1—though there was a range from 3.4 goals per game in one of the six control (standard size goals) divisions to 4.7 in 2 of the control divisions. We did find that the larger goals did not result in higher goal differences in the distribution of games between the teams, and did not result in more one-sided blowouts. Counting corner kicks to decide games (which are still done on occasion to this day in a league or tournament) or for an additional standing point, were universally disliked by players, coaches and fans. In overtime games in 1994 for divisions that it was used within, it actually seemed to inhibit teams from attacking in overtime.

Based on our research, comparing such metrics as goals per game, fouls, winning margins, corners, and qualitative input from coaches, we recommended that MLS adopt:

A seventh foul resulting in the shootout or top of arc shot, which reduced the incidence of fouls

Encroachment penalty by one or more defenders on free kicks within the final defensive 35 yards, extending the distance from 10 to 15 yards. The rule change seemed to result in fewer delays in game flow and thus more live play.

Throw-in/Kick-in Option for which the ball came into play more quickly. Teams opted on average to use the Kick-in 88% of the time in two test divisions. One coach felt that the Kick-in option resulted in a "purer form of the game because it further promoted kicking the ball, which is a foundation of the game."

None of the three suggestions were ultimately approved by MLS board when the league finally launched in 1996, though there was considerable discussion about them among the league founders—again there was a climate at the time that the new league largely had to present traditional soccer to be successful, while the old NASL had made a number of rule changes, most famously the 9 points for a win, 3 for a tie and 1 point for each goal, forcing you to have a calculator when you tried to figure out possible playoff team scenarios during the season.

We recommended that the USISL continue to test changes in subsequent years; in 1995 they continued with the Kick-in option, live shootout for seven team fouls or a professional foul, 15 years distance on free kicks rather than 10, a 60 minute clock and 35 yard shootout for tiebreakers. The W-League in its first season in 1995 used only the Kick-in option and the 15 yard wall for free kicks. In 1996 the live shootout for seven team fouls or a professional foul was dropped. None of the rule changes were used by the W-League in 1996.

We're not saying women's leagues have to do these changes, but being active in testing rule changes would be good to stay innovative and a way to differentiate itself. The XFL, a spring major league gridiron football league that tried to restart in 2020 after playing one full season in 2001 and was the brainchild of professional wrestling head Vince McMahon; the league had a nice season going with some good games and viable attendances until play was suspended due to Coronavirus and then the league went bankrupt a few weeks later) had a number of rule changes—kick offs, punts, extra points after touchdown, double forward pass, overtime and clock management and for officials—and tested them through a market research survey of a general population of sports fans. The advantage of what we did for the USISL and MLS is we quantified the rules effect on scoring, fouls, run of play and other metrics. This is just another idea for professional women's soccer leagues to consider as they deal with this mind-bending time in our history.



Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

Tim Grainey
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