The USL Super League, a new U.S. professional women's soccer league, has announced that it will apply for Division I status, meaning it will be competing with the NWSL (National Women's Soccer League).
In 2021 the league had announced its intention to apply for Division 2 status, but Super League president Amanda Vandervort said that the change had "been in conversation for quite a while."
Another change was delaying the launch from 2023 to 2024, when the Super League intends to launch a 10-12 team league.
Eight markets have been confirmed so far: Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Worth, Tex.; Lexington, Ky.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; Tampa Bay, Fl.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C..
Several others are due to join in 2025 if their stadiums are completed, and others may be announced soon (Division I requires all stadiums to seat at least 5000).
Some have expressed concern that the creation of a new professional league will draw attention from the NWSL just when it is gathering momentum.
But Vandervort pointed out that there are over a hundred men's professional teams in the U.S., so there should be space for more than 12 women's.
Additionally, Vandervort noted that, "the United States has 12 professional women's teams but is about the same footprint and population as all of Europe, and they have over 150 top-tier professional women's teams."
Unlike the NWSL, which runs from spring to late fall, the Super League will follow a fall-to-summer schedule.
The USL, which already runs the 65-team pre-professional W League, has said that the Super League will be focused on developing player pathways and that it will not use a college draft. Vandervort also said the Super League has no plans for a salary cap.
"The standards at the Division I level, we are confident that as a league we will meet those standards," said Vandervort. "We feel very strongly that delivering the highest standards of American soccer for the women that play in our league is our not only opportunity, but our responsibility, and we're really excited."