After suffering through a year in which Sky Blue FC didn’t win a game until the season finale, Sellersville native Jen Hoy believes this season will bring improvements on and off the field for the New Jersey-based NWSL team.
“We’re just really focused right now on the present, and I believe in this organization," the 28-year-old forward said ahead of this weekend’s season opener. “I believe in the changes that we have made and continue to make.”
Hoy didn’t want to get into details of last year’s controversies with the team, including substandard training facilities and reports of low-quality housing arrangements for players. Neither did she want to discuss the exit of general manager Tony Novo earlier this week, which multiple sources told The Inquirer was a firing. Hoy preferred to look forward instead.
But she conceded that the team’s on-field struggles had an impact.
"That took a big toll all around — mentally, physically, emotionally,” she said. “It was a tough year, but it’s in the past.”
This year, the team should be much better. A slew of offseason trades brought in forward Nahomi Kawasumi and defenders Estelle Johnson and Caprice Dydasco. Kawasumi is a regular with Japan’s national team, and will bolster an attack that includes U.S. prospect Savannah McCaskill; last season’s rookie of the year, Imani Dorsey; and Costa Rican forward Raquel Rodriguez, a Penn State alum.
And, of course, there’s Carli Lloyd. The Delran native and Hoy came to Sky Blue at the same time, as part of a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Red Stars in January 2018. Though Lloyd’s move naturally drew the most headlines, it was also a homecoming for Hoy, a product of Germantown Academy and Princeton. She was on The Inquirer’s all-Southeastern Pennsylvania first team in 2007 and 2008 at GA, and was teammates with future UConn basketball star Caroline Doty.
“That was a fun time,” Hoy said. “I always knew that Caroline was going to continue on as an incredible athlete with basketball, but for me, I was just enjoying pursuing being the best student-athlete I could be.”
Hoy has clearly gone on to be much more than that. But like many other NWSL players, she hasn’t made much money from it. Everyone in the league except U.S. and Canadian national team stars subsidized by their federations can only earn a maximum of $46,200 per season. The NWSL made that figure public in January.
National team stars’ salaries aren’t public, but reporting by New York Times and Yahoo! Sports journalist Caitlin Murray in a recently published book disclosed that U.S. players can earn from $67,500 to $72,500 this year for their NWSL play, plus compensation for national team performances including a $100,000 annual base salary. Those figures are set by the players’ collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer.
Hoy hasn’t reached that level. Her only national team experience is a call-up to the U.S. under-23 team in 2014. She admitted that day-to-day life in the league’s middle class isn’t always easy.
“It takes doing a lot of things well, and also at the same time being very thoughtful about where you are at mentally and emotionally, because the season is a long one,” Hoy said. “We don’t make a ton of money doing this. We do this because we love it. We love the sport. We love our teammates. We love creating a really unique experience for fans who love what we do.”
Hoy backs up her playing income with a side job as a nutrition consultant. After taking some courses on the subject, she launched her own company last year.
“A career outside of soccer as well, I believe that has helped me to become an even better player," she said. "Soccer is even more of this positive outlet, and it’s something that I take very seriously, but it’s not the only thing that I have.”
Sky Blue will kick off the season at the Washington Spirit on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The home opener at Rutgers’ Yurcak Field in Piscataway will be April 20 against the Houston Dash, followed by a visit from Tobin Heath and the star-studded Portland Thorns on April 28.
Those games and all league games this year will be streamed live on Yahoo! Sports’ website and apps. As of now, there is no national TV deal, though that could change if the women’s World Cup makes a big enough impact.