Photo courtesy of Fox News.
It’s been just over a week since Sam Kerr, 2019 NWSL MVP and leading scorer, confirmed her long-awaited move to Chelsea FC of the Women’s Super League (WSL) in England. European football fans are ecstatic while North Americans are upset to see her go. But how sad should National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) supporters really be?
One the one hand, it obviously doesn’t do any good for women’s soccer in North America when the NWSL loses its top player. The NWSL phenomenon has received the Golden Boot three straight years and is the only player to have been named NWSL MVP twice — her first time being with the Sky Blue FC in 2017. The forward currently holds the NWSL record for most goals (77), knocking in 18 goals this past season to break her own NWSL single-season scoring record. Her lone goal in the semi-final is what got her team, the Chicago Red Stars, to the league championship match for the first time.
The league has been struggling to retain top players due to the growth of women’s soccer worldwide and the rise of salaries in Europe. All 23-players on the United States’ World Cup roster played in the NWSL for the 2019 season, but it’s no secret that they’ve been open to opportunities elsewhere.
On the other hand, Kerr’s departure from the NWSL could symbolize growth in the women’s game, which is good news for everyone. It’s exciting that women’s soccer is becoming popular in at least one continent in the world.
The Australian national team captain will likely be one of the highest-paid women soccer players on the planet, marking a new milestone for female footballers. Though it has not been officially released how much she will make, it is rumoured her contract is worth over $2 million.
The NWSL had a player salary cap of $50,000 per year, but Kerr’s news of leaving came the same day the NWSL announced a new rule that allows its teams to purchase up to $300,000 of allocation money to pay world class players who aren’t associated with the United States or Canada national teams.
It’s a wonder if it’s a coincidence that both those pieces of breaking news came on the same day. If it is, then it should be considered a good thing that the NWSL is trying to compete with leagues such as the WSL. If the NWSL wants to be serious about growing women’s soccer, they’re going to have to keep figuring out ways to increase player salaries and league revenue. The motivation of having competition in other parts of the world is a good thing for the NWSL as it keeps them active in thinking up new and improved ways to compensate their players so their athletes want to stay.
It is upsetting to North American soccer fans that Sam Kerr is leaving the NWSL, but how much motivation would there be to grow the game if all the good players never left?