1. We are the league.

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“We are the league.”

 Tori Huster juggled in 2020-- but not just a soccer ball, or a roll of toilet paper.

When soccer leagues across the world shut down in March 2020, players juggled toilet paper with their feet and knees in the viral #StayAtHomeChallenge, and NWSL teams played checkers against one another via Twitter. Professional players raised money for COVID-19 relief funds and donated food. Basements, parking decks, and public parks turned into training grounds as team practices were put on pause, but players looked to stay fit for the undetermined day that matches resumed-- return dates that kept sliding backwards as COVID-19 cases rose.

Yet, whenever the Washington Spirit’s Tori Huster went to train individually, she was often interrupted by the chime of a Zoom call.

“I remember the first couple of weeks of COVID, I don't even think I touched a soccer ball because I was on Zoom calls constantly,” Huster says. “I think every time I went to go work out, somebody else would call me, asking like, ‘What are we doing?’”

What are we doing? It was a question for a veteran NWSL player leading her team through organizational turmoil and for a president of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association representing the players’ union during a tumultuous year.

2. Is professional women's soccer an oxymoron? A blueprint to make sure it's not.

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Women’s soccer, in recent years, has been a feel-good fix around the world. The public sees stellar play from top-notch athletes, an exploding fan base, and a powerful march toward equity.

  

But, if you haven't been paying attention, there’s a dark new narrative in the NWSL, the U.S. women’s professional league, where multiple teams have become engulfed in scandal. Players are speaking out about emotionally and sexually abusive coaches, poor working conditions, club and league mismanagement, and a striking lack of female representation in management and on coaching staffs. The stain is spreading; similar accusations are emerging from Australia to Venezuela, many predict college soccer will be next. 

It’s a #me-too-and-then-some moment for women’s soccer. 

Multiple coaches and the commissioner have been forced out, and there’s a worrying sense that this league, which undergirds the stellar US national team and the best system of women’s soccer in the world, may be less a powerhouse than a house of cards.

But for those of us inside, what’s happening is not a surprise. This third attempt at a U.S. women’s soccer league is still run like an old boy’s club -- or, more accurately, a warped paternalistic ownership model that’s part charity and part hobby. It holds the players hostage, effectively, with low pay and almost no leverage to speak up or control their fate. 

3. Washington Spirit Sign Forward Ashley Hatch to New Extension.

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Washington, D.C., (12/22/21) – The Washington Spirit have re-signed forward Ashley Hatch on a two-year deal that will keep the Golden Boot winner at the club through 2023 with a club option for 2024. 

In 2021, Hatch scored 10 goals in the regular season to claim the Golden Boot title. During the playoffs, Hatch added another goal, a game winner vs. North Carolina in the first round. Her goals were well distributed, scoring four with her left foot, five with her right foot, and added two more with her head. The former BYU standout appeared in 23 games for the Spirit, starting 21 and totaling 1,890 minutes en route to the NWSL Championship. 

Spirit Interim Head Coach Kris Ward said this on the extension: “We’re very excited to have Ashley as a part of the Spirit family. She is an admirable player on and off the field, and is truly only at the beginning of what will continue to be a stellar career.