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Women's football review: University of California-Berkley's Pipeline to The FA WSL

Tim Grainey chats with Thelma Einarsdottir about her ambitions and reveals how big an impact the FA WSL is making in US women's soccer.

  Thelma Einarsdottir, a senior forward from Iceland, scored the only goal of the game for the University of California Golden Bears as they defeated Arizona State University on the road on Friday, October 24th.

Einarsdottir, capped by Iceland at the youth and senior level, scored again on November 2nd as the Bears defeated the University of Oregon 2-1 at home to improve to a 13-2-5 (W-D-L) record, among the 25 highest rated programs in the country and a virtual shoe-in for the 64 team NCAA Division I playoffs starting later this month.

After the Arizona State match, Einarsdottir talked to tribalfootball.com about her future plans: "I hope to play professionally; that would be the dream. England is always a good choice; Sweden, Norway, Germany, and France are all countries with great leagues and great teams."

When asked why she mentioned England first, Einarsdottir explained: "I think the FA WSL is doing a great job. It is really exciting the job they are doing with the teams and players and they are building onto what they have been doing the past few years, and I think that's a great job."

The University of California-Berkley has been a bit of a feeder program for the FA WSL, as there are now three of their graduates on FA WSL 1 sides: New Zealand international Betsy Hassett (Manchester City), Iceland international Katrin Omarsdottier and Danish international Nina Frausing Pedersen, both of Liverpool Ladies. Omarsdottir signed to play with Philadelphia in 2012 of the WPS side but the league folded and she played for Kristianstads in Sweden before going to England. She has been a key member of Liverpool's 2013 and 2014 FA WSL title winning squads. She was also instrumental in why Thelma Einarsdottir ended up at the University of California, even though they recruited her late in the process, as she was also considering Boston University and Florida State University.

Her dream had always been: "To come to the States to play soccer and go to a good college. There was an Icelandic player here before me [Omarsdottir] so Cal-Berkeley was always my number one choice. It came really late and when I got the call from Neil [head coach Neil McGuire], I couldn't say anything else but 'Yes.'"

McGuire is a native of Edinburgh, Scotland and once was on the books for Falkirk.

California has two other 2013 graduates besides Pedersen in Europe: Americans Emily Kruger with KR Reykjavik and Genessee Daughetee with Montpellier in France, after a stint with the Seattle Sounders Women in the W-League.

I have interviewed dozens of U.S. college players over the past decade about their post-collegiate soccer plans, when U.S. professional leagues were active and while leagues were trying to start. Some players during those years were positive about playing in European leagues (including European, Latin American and North American-raised players) but it wasn't until the last year or two that England has been a serious option on their consideration set.

With the FA WSL solid after five years and seeing more competitiveness and parity - with Arsenal no longer a sure bet for the title as they were in the old Premier League - the league is getting attention from players.

Portuguese-American (and tribalfootball.com blogger) Amanda Da Costa played in Liverpool for two seasons (she was another 2012 WPS draftee that had nowhere to play when the league shut down) and has recently signed with Washington Spirit in NWSL.

I believe that we will see increased interest in the FA WSL from Americans as well as from Europeans who return to the continent after their collegiate career in the U.S., looking at the British Isles when previously their focus was on Scandinavia or Germany. It's important to remember that the FA WSL will celebrate its fifth anniversary next season. Though it is a semi-professional league compared with the professional NWSL; the third incarnation of a professional league in America since 2001, which is entering its third year in 2015.

Year three is a watershed mark for women's professional football in the United States as the other two leagues never made it to year four. The addition of FA WSL 2 this season is a tremendous mark of the stability and long-term planning that the FA has provided. College seniors - both North Americans and those from Europe - should look seriously to the FA WSL as a home to continue their football careers.

 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

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