Women’s Soccer: Vandervort named president of USL Super League
The United Soccer League (USL) have announced the appointment of Amanda Vandervort as the first President of the USL Super League, the professional second division women’s soccer league in the United States, slated to kick off in 2023.
With more than 20 years of experience across all levels of women’s and men’s soccer, Vandervort brings business acumen, leadership skills and industry relationships to the USL Super League and USL’s burgeoning women’s soccer pathway.
It has been a testing period for women’s soccer following the revelations of ‘serious allegations of misconduct’ surrounding recently-fired North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, the 58-year old Brit accused of sexual misconduct and inappropriate remarks over a ten-year spell with various women’s soccer clubs.
Up until last month, Riley had been a mainstay in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) – the pinnacle of the women’s soccer system in the US – as head coach of the Courage since their formation in 2017, but a report by The Athletic on September 30th sparked a series of claims from various players concerning his conduct at a number of clubs.
This then led to the suspension of all NWSL fixtures that weekend, plus the departures of league commissioner Lisa Baird and general counsel Lisa Levine as it was revealed that various allegations dating back six years had not been acted upon by the league. Fast-forward to 2021 and four male coaches have been fired in just four months – none of the decisions related to performances and results on the field.
With that backdrop of the top women’s league in the country undergoing a whole lot of soul-searching, things could not be more different for the United Soccer League (USL) as they embark on what they hope to be a revolutionary step in improving the already high standard of the women’s game further down the system.
In June North America’s largest professional soccer organisation announced the creation of a brand new league, the USL W League. Kicking off in 2022 the USL W League has been formed to increase opportunity and to provide an elite pre-professional pathway for women wanting to develop their careers both on and off the field. The governing body plans for at least 30 teams to enter in its first season and 20 of those have already been confirmed.
Therefore you won’t find many odds at your favorite online sportsbook as it is unclear which other sides could make an appearance in the new league, or the rosters they’ll submit, but the development promises to be an exciting one for women’s soccer.
Then just last month came the announcement of another new league – the USL Super League – this time a fully professional league which will place under the NWSL (the only women’s league in the US with Division I designation) to act as a professional Division II women’s league. The USL expects to double the amount of professional women’s teams in the US with the formation of the Super League and says that the professional standards and compensation structure will be on a par with their professional men’s leagues.
Leading the charge to make the USL Super League globally-recognized for its high standards on and off the field is new President Amanda Vandervort. The former MLS, United Soccer Coaches and FIFPRO executive will be aiming to bring her incredible wealth of playing, coaching and sports business management experience to the fore following the announcement of her appointment as the inaugural Super League president this week.
Tucson, Arizona native Vandervort played at the University of Wyoming and then led New York University’s women’s program as Head Coach, also coaching a whole range of youth and adult teams across the States. She then moved into the MLS, the pinnacle of US soccer, working in various roles to develop the league’s growth not only in social media and consumers but also a significant growth in fans to the sport, using her wealth of knowledge and experience to consult clubs on their own fan growth and business development.
Having also served as Women’s Football Development Consultant for FIFA Vandervort joined FIFPRO, the International Federation of Professional Footballers, where she became Chief Women’s Football Officer and played an important role in furthering the development of the women’s game. She co-authored the “Raising Our Game” report in 2020 which highlighted player’s rights and playing conditions in a fast-developing women’s soccer industry.
Vandervort will now take charge of the entire USL’s youth-to-professional women’s soccer pathway, working with communities, players, clubs, owners and league partners to not only provide opportunities for players, fans, coaches and staff but to also build the USL Super League into a financially sustainable and global sports powerhouse.
The plan is for the USL to appeal to a worldwide audience by featuring some of the best domestic and international women’s soccer players and under Vandervort’s leadership, the organization is confident they will succeed.
“It’s such an exciting privilege to be in this position,” Vandervort told the USL’s official website.
“Together we’ll build a competitive environment for elite women players, coaches and referees at the professional level. We’ll create opportunities for fans to experience the women’s game in their local communities and provide value to those investing in this high-growth platform.
“I’m excited to be helping the USL realise the Super League’s potential and drive the women’s game forward.”
USL CEO Alec Papadakis told the organisation’s official website: “We are delighted to welcome Amanda to the USL executive team as USL Super League President. Amanda is one of the most accomplished soccer executives in the United States. Her expertise includes global women’s soccer matters, partnerships, marketing, league expansion, club strategy, grassroots initiatives and business development.
“Just as important, Amanda’s perspective as a former player and coach aligns with the culture of our organization and that of our other senior executives.”
As the storm rumbles on in the NWSL for now, the future of the USL looks brighter than ever.
By Nathan Auty