39 Founding Members to Launch New Women’s League Under the WPSL Umbrella
The Women’s Premier Soccer League continues to focus on the growth of women’s soccer as it enters its 23rd season by establishing a second league for female athletes under the age of 21 set to launch this summer.
League officials announced Friday the unveiling of thirty-nine teams set to compete in the inaugural season of the WPSL U21 league this summer as roster of teams and conference alignments were formalized.
The new women’s U21 amateur league is affiliated and managed by the established WPSL, which opens its 23rd season of play next month with an all-time high of 136 active teams competing. This comes after the canceled 2020 WPSL season due to the coronavirus pandemic that impacted sports throughout the world.
The 39 teams are spread across the U.S. from coast to coast and will play matches in 30 separate markets in 13 states. For the inaugural 2021 season, the U21 league will be split into seven conferences and teams will play 6-to-12 matches in their regular-season schedules. Teams are also allowed to schedule non-conference matches with nearby geographical foes from other conferences.
“We initially wanted to utilize 2021 as a ‘trial season’ and test the concept in one or two conferences,” Brad Lund, WPSL vice president and WPSL U21 director, said. “But the interest level from not only our current membership but also teams outside the WPSL portfolio was much higher than we would have ever anticipated.”
Eight teams in California will be split into two conferences of four teams each separating the northern and southern parts of the state. The Red River Conference will feature seven teams across Texas and Oklahoma.
The Carolinas will feature five teams in the Charlotte, Raleigh, Columbia, and Savannah areas with the Southeast Conference compiling teams in the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Huntsville, and Atlanta areas. The Sunshine Conference will feature two teams each in Miami and Orlando.
The largest conference in the inaugural season is the Metropolitan Conference on the east coast which features 11 teams across four states – New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
A postseason has not been scheduled for the first season due to COVID-19 restrictions that remain in selected communities and states, however, the league will recognize and crown seven conference champions.
WPSL U21 teams will be allowed to have an agreed-upon number of over-age players on their inaugural season’s official matchday rosters, with each conference defining the number allowed based on the region’s available player pool.
The excitement and anticipation for the U21 league have sparked interests in future seasons as Lund stated an additional 16-to-20 teams have already committed to play in 2022.
Teams will begin training next month as player registration opens May 4th. Individual team schedules will be released thereafter.