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Equal Play in Tampa Bay

by Kacy Vance

My whole family has grown up playing soccer. All of us started at 3 years old and we continued on as we grew up. My aunt played. My cousins both went to college on soccer scholarships. My sister won back to back state championships and now plays club at UF. I was the worst out of all of us, so now I just watch soccer and scream about equality for women athletes from the rooftops. So, the news of a second division soccer league for women is one of the most exciting things that I have seen in a hot minute. This is so important in the move towards gender equality in sports. In Florida, we have so few opportunities for women to play professional soccer.

But, Kacy, how many professional women’s soccer teams are there in Florida? Wow, thank you so much for asking. I can count them on one hand even if I cut off four of my fingers. There is literally ONE (1) professional women’s soccer team in Florida. We have the chance now to be the leaders in second division women’s soccer. We can create a space that trains and develops our women athletes in this state. We can create the opportunities we deserve.

We already have the Rowdies Academy is open to all genders (props to the Rowdies organization for being inclusive).  This is great, but before, the girls who trained with the Rowdies Academy would age out and then have nowhere to turn professionally. We have so many talented young women in this area and across the state. There is so much potential that we just let go to waste because historically, we have invested only in our boys. We bring up both boys and girls and cultivate their talents, but when they leave high school and finish their time in college, women have to seek employment through more suitable careers. Why do we even let them play competitively as students if we are going to deny them the opportunity to play professionally? What’s the point of including them in the Academy if there is nowhere for them to play? Now is the chance. Now is the time. We have the opportunity to bring women into a league where they can play professionally.

There are 78 professional men’s soccer teams in the US (81 if you include the Canadian teams) across MLS, USL, USL 1, and NISA. For women, there is one league: NWSL. Guess how many teams are in that league? Currently, 10. It’s not because there are more men athletes than women athletes, it’s because we don’t invest in our women.  In the 2016-2017 school year, there were about 38,873 women’s college soccer athletes. In the same year, there were about 39,888 college men’s soccer players. For nearly the same amount of players training to be professional athletes, women have about 11% of the opportunities to play professionally as men. 

I am so excited that USL is taking this huge step to include women in sports, to give them the chance to show the world what they are capable of in a space that is larger than 10 teams. Right now, if we assume a team’s roster has about 25 people, that means that only 250 women across the country get to play soccer professionally. That’s less than 1% of college women soccer players. For reference, if you put all the women who are currently playing soccer for a professional team right now, you would fill one of the first section and a third of the second section in the Midfield Seating at Al Lang. How cool would it be to help fill those seats. To bring in and bring up women athletes in our own club.

Personally, I’m beyond excited for this and I hope that the Rowdies can be a part of it. Lemme know who I need to talk to. I make a mean powerpoint. 

Matthew Cox
Co-Founder/Co-Host/Editor in Chief of The Unused Substitutes. DTSP in the streets, SRQ in the sheets. Take my football ⚽, my 🍺 craft, my 🌯 wet and my takes 🔥. 💚&💛 til I'm ☠&🥶

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