Things are different now for Carli Lloyd.
The Delran native’s time is now filled by opportunities she often didn’t have as a player: commercial sponsorship deals, tryouts as a broadcaster, and invitations to be a big name at major sports events.
There’s also one other opportunity Lloyd has gotten that isn’t as high-profile as some of the others but could have the biggest impact.
In doing so, Lloyd became the latest former U.S. women’s national team star to join a NWSL team’s ownership suite, on the opposite coast from the many who hold shares in Los Angeles’ Angel City FC.
It’s a testament to the NWSL’s stability and growth that investing in the league’s clubs is seen as good business, not just good principle. But it’s also a testament to the fact that professional women’s soccer players now earn enough money that they have resources to invest, after decades of low pay across multiple leagues.
“I don’t think that this would have been an opportunity, you know, even two, three years ago, definitely not five years ago,” Lloyd told The Inquirer at this week’s Philadelphia Sports Writers Association dinner, where she was one of the featured speakers.
“The future is bright, and we just need to keep investing,” she said. “We need to keep making the product good on the fields, which it is, and just rallying as many people as we can to keep supporting the NWSL.”
The work done by the NWSL, its players, fans, and sponsors has produced significant progress this year: not just deep-pocketed expansion teams in Los Angeles and San Diego, but the first collective bargaining agreement for a U.S. pro women’s soccer league.
NWSL Players Association executive director Meghann Burke and new NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman ceremonially signed the new CBA on live TV at Angel City’s regular season opener last Friday, and the union published the full text of the document on its website this week.
Highlights of the deal include big increases in salaries, a path to free agency, mandates for stadium quality, and medical benefits including up to six months of paid mental health leave.
“Obviously the league’s been been around for for a number of years, but I think we’re now just really starting to see a league the way that it’s supposed to be” said Lloyd, whose 13-year pro career began in 2009 in the former Women’s Professional Soccer league.
“All of these negative things that have happened in the last several years within the NWSL have been really unfortunate and extremely disappointing and sad, but it’s also given the league and owners and teams the ability to make things way better, as they should,” she said. “And you’re seeing the expansion teams — Angel City, San Diego — come in, and they’re pushing so many other teams to be better.”
Gotham raised its game in part by hiring a new general manager, Yael Averbuch West, who played professionally for nine years and was a stalwart of the NWSLPA. She ended up involved in the discussions to bring Lloyd into an ownership group that includes New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and his wife Tammy (the club’s chairperson), Ed Nalbandian, and Steven Temares.
Lloyd will be not just a part-owner of the team, but a consultant and ambassador to help with the ever-needed work of marketing and growing awareness on the jam-packed New York sports scene.
“I just feel like I had more to give, even though it won’t be on the soccer fields,” she said. “It just made sense — my home club, I played there, I believe in the direction that it’s going in. It’s getting better and better, and I want to just help play a role in in making it one of the best clubs in the country.”
As for the other opportunities Lloyd has had, they don’t come much bigger than what she’s done the last few weeks: studio analysis for Fox Sports, a visit to ESPN’s booth at the U.S. team’s recent game in Chester, and being an on-stage presence at the men’s World Cup draw and the NFL draft.
Which of the two stage events was bigger for a diehard soccer-playing Eagles fan?
“I don’t think you could get much bigger than the FIFA men’s World Cup draw,” she said. “Talk about a very nerve-wracking experience, a live show, having to rehearse three or four different times, not having any experience whatsoever in doing that. But I feel like I was able to do that, and now I just feel so much more confident doing other things.”
Announcing the Eagles’ second-round draft pick in Las Vegas, she said, “was a lot more relaxed environment.” And it came with a familiar comfort of home.
“It was good to see some Eagles fans there chanting, and after the pick was made, you heard the whole crowd booing,” she said. “But that’s what Philly does to everybody. You either love them or hate them — they’re the best fans in the world. They’re the most brutal fans to play for, but they’re the most real fans, and passionate.”