United Women’s Soccer Grows the Amateur Game
Every direction you turn, the growth of women’s soccer has taken the forefront of the conversation. From protecting the future — with U.S. Soccer’s new Girls Development Academy, to growing the game — with more women’s soccer teams in the USA than any other country on the planet, women’ soccer is the hot topic in the USA.
Whether it’s the preparation of our U.S. Women’s National Team to repeat as FIFA World Cup Champions or the excitement of the NWSL entering its fifth season, the growth is alive and well for women’s soccer in America. Now the United Women’s Soccer league is entering its second season and its growth reflects the excitement felt across the land.
Soccer News: The United Women’s Soccer (UWS) league is entering its second season — and is clearly meeting the needs of clubs as it prepared to take to the field this summer.
2016 was the inaugural season and the UWS was developed in order to provide our growing women’s sport with an additional opportunity for players to continue to showcase their talents on the pitch. With more women’s soccer teams taking to the pitch than in any other country, the growth of the UWS is clear recognition of women’s soccer in the USA.
Launched to raise the bar in amateur women’s soccer, Ferrara focuses on a high level operational professionalism.
“We’re trying to go beyond teams that are able to play the game,” said Ferrara Jr. “We look to standardize each team’s game operations and to have professionalism across the board.”
New England Mutiny women’s soccer club owner, Ferrara worked with Jerry Zanelli at the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) for many years and served as Associate Commissioner before helping launch the UWS.
Looking to play in a professional environment, and frustrated with the WPSL’s tolerance of more recreationally oriented teams, Ferrara has built a league that maintains a strict level of game day operations and standards.
The UWS primarily, but not limited to, serves players currently competing at the college ranks or recent grads who still have the aspirations to play professionally. The league will field 16 teams during the upcoming season with the Midwest Conference formed in recent months.
In recent news, with the 2017 NWSL College Draft held just a few weeks ago at the NSCAA Convention, a total of four players with connections to UWS member teams were selected to enter the ranks of professional soccer.
The Real Salt Lake Women had two Top 15 picks selected in the draft as Darian Jenkins of UCLA was selected by NC Courage with the 7th pick, and BYU midfielder/forward Michele Vasconcelos was picked 11th overall.
“All of us here at United Women’s Soccer would like to congratulate all the players selected — and in particular, Michele and Nickolette,” said Ferrara Jr. “We think that Chicago and Orlando will be very pleased with their selections. We also hope that both players’ experience in UWS helped them to make their professional aspirations come true. As for those team alumni selected in the NWSL Draft, its always rewarding to see the development of the players you’ve coached come to fruition in such a rewarding manner.”
UWS League Structure
The UWS is managed by EDP Soccer, a soccer management company that runs a number of leagues and tournaments. In addition to the UWS, EDP operates youth leagues that includes an NPL league, the EDP Super Club program, the EDP Premier League and the EDP Championship League.
The UWS remains dedicated to four components to guarantee its success:
• Development – continuing the maturation of the collegiate player;
• Evolution – elevating the competition to help the player reach the next level;
• Exposure – media friendliness & widespread promotion of the sport;
• And most important of all, Standards – elite teams operating with professional standards.
Women’s Soccer News: The UWS has been in the news recently — here are the highlights:
Santa Clarita Blue Heat Update
Defending champions Santa Clarita Blue Heat announced their first two signings of the 2017 season as they bring a bit of Central American firepower to the club. The Blue Heat welcomes Costa Rican international forwards Melissa Herrera and Carolina Venegas to the team, pending league approval.
“When I went to Costa Rica to talk to each player, they shared my passion for the sport and growth of the women’s game,” said Santa Clarita owner and Technical Director Carlos Marroquin. “It did not take much to convince them to come to the U.S. to showcase their skills in such a quality league. I want to bring the best to the league and to the city of Santa Clarita.”
At just 18 years of age, Herrera was named to Costa Rica’s 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup roster and started all three group matches, netting a goal against South Korea. Herrera has recorded 23 caps and 13 goals during her time with the Costa Rican National Team. She currently competed with Costa Rica’s Asociacion Deportiva Moravia – the 2016 Apertura champions.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me to play in the USA,” said Herrera, who had a quick stint with UWS 2017 newcomer F.C. Indiana in 2016. “I want to showcase what I can do in a league with good quality teams and with a passionate team as Santa Clarita.”
Venegas competed alongside Herrera at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup roster. She has recorded a total of 37 caps and 15 goals with the national team. The 25-year-old is coming off a season Madrid CFF in Spain and currently is suiting up for Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica.
“When the current champions of any league show interest, it is an honor,” said Venegas. “It will be a challenge playing in the U.S. with such quality teams and talented players.”
Midwest Conference Expansion
Michigan Legends F.C. has been named the league’s most recent expansion side joining Detroit Sun F.C., F.C. Indiana, Fort Wayne United F.C. and Grand Rapids F.C. as the fifth team in the newly-formed Midwest Conference.
“Our goal is to supplement player needs giving each player a true professional experience that will enhance their collegiate or post-college experience,” said MLFC Director of Player Personnel Kevin Oakley. “Our team will have a dedicated athletic trainer, sports masseuse, nutrition expert and performance training staff.”
The Legacy Soccer Organization and Legacy Center acquired the rights to the franchise that will play its home matches at the Fieldhouse at Legacy Center. Legacy Soccer Organization announced the expansion of LSO in order to further their mission of offering all levels of play.
“We are excited to have Michigan Legends F.C. join UWS,” said Ferrara Jr. “They have the infrastructure to give its players a professional experience. Legacy Center is a state-of-the-art facility and as an expansion team, they have met all the standards that we look for in an organization.”
Toledo Villa Football Club will take the pitch as the sixth club in the Midwest Conference for the upcoming season. TVFC’s ownership group includes: Pacesetter Soccer Club (Sylvania, OH), Total Sports, Inc. (Wixom, MI), Northaven Group (Sylvania, OH) and a Northville, MI-based group.
Toledo Villa F.C. Director of Soccer Operations and General Manager David Hebestreit is currently assembling the coaching staff and recruiting players as he remains dedicated to bringing competitive women’s soccer teams to the greater-Toledo area.
“The UWS provides Toledo Villa F.C. with high-level competition, as well as a regionally-based, regular season format that breeds rivalries,” said Hebestreit. “After coaching in both the WPSL and NPSL, I am confident that the model offered by UWS is far more sustainable and I am excited to get to work hiring a head coach for both senior teams.”
A look at UWS 2016 Regular Season Stats:
|New Jersey Copa FC||8||1||1||25||31||11||20||8-1-1|
|New England Mutiny||6||4||0||18||21||16||5||6-4-0|
|LI Rough Riders||4||3||3||15||16||10||6||4-3-3|
|TSF Academy Valkyries||3||4||3||12||14||23||-9||3-4-3|
|New York Magic||0||8||2||2||11||34||-23||0-8-2|
|Santa Clarita Heat||4||1||3||15||28||13||15||4-1-3|
|Real Salt Lake Women||4||2||2||14||17||9||8||4-2-2|
Stay tuned for more coverage by SoccerToday on the UWS and the women’s game!
Photo Credit: United Women’s Soccer