BALTIMORE — The National Women’s Soccer League’s passionate fan base is smart enough to know when something seems amiss. And right now, the warning lights are on.
The biggest day of the league’s offseason, the annual college draft, is Thursday at the United Soccer Coaches convention (11 a.m., live streaming at nwslsoccer.com). But there are a lot of questions about what happens after that, and it’s fair to ask them.
When’s the schedule coming out, for starters? How about a broadcast deal for TV and streaming of games? What are the prospects for expansion?
Most importantly, who will be the league’s commissioner? And what is current NWSL president Amanda Duffy doing before she steps down on Feb. 15 to become the Orlando Pride’s executive vice president — a move that creates potential conflicts of interest before then?
There was an NWSL board meeting Tuesday, the day before the convention kicked off. The meeting wasn’t publicized in advance, but reporters from outlets including The Inquirer were tipped off about it and showed up. Their presence led the board to send longtime Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler to speak on the record.
Here are some highlights of Whisler’s remarks.
"There were dozens of candidates. This is the final set that we’re going to begin interviewing immediately. …
“I’m not going to comment on specific candidates or their backgrounds. One of the reasons this is going to be held very tightly is some of them are household names. They’re all in great jobs. Many are talking to us and willing to take potentially big lower compensation to be part of what we’re doing. So we’re not going to jeopardize their positions in any way.”
“I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made sure that we have a diverse group of candidates in many ways. But at the end of the day, this was a list that was simply the best of the best, both from background credentials, experience, perspective, shared vision, and a desire to be with us that is ready to move fast.”
"We are excited because we have some really enthusiastic, good partners that look like we’re going to get to final agreement [with] very soon. I can’t commit to a public announcement date, but well before the season, well before the schedule, we should be able to announce our partners in media for the year — and it will be a multiyear agreement.
"There might be multiple rights holders — [they] might be international, might be digital, might be broadcast, might be multiple languages, different country partners. It doesn’t necessarily mean multiple broadcast partners.”
"Amanda is a pro. She will do the right thing in almost every situation, and is not going to be involved in anything that presents any sort of conflict. That said, she’s not engaged in any capacity at Orlando right now, and certainly will avoid anything that has a conflict. There’s an awful lot of work to be done, but we’re deep already in the transition planning. …
“We’re hopeful that the commissioner search will move as quickly as we all need it to. There’s likely a gap, and we’ll cover that gap in a variety of ways. but we’re fully into transition planning right now.”
“U.S. Soccer has always, in this league, been a participant in the meetings, and they participated today. They will participate going forward. Even with or without a management agreement, they’ll often participate because there are so many topics that matter to both parties. And we love their participation.”
"We have more teams that want to be in than we have room to take in, because we’re not going to dilute the quality of the league and the competitiveness of the league. …
"I think we’re all comfortable believing we should be at about 14 teams by 2022. Beyond that, I think we’ll have a thorough debate based on how performance and quality of play goes through this phase of expansion. But we’ve done a lot of analysis. …