September 21, 2019

Women’s soccer players call for pro team

Webster women’s soccer players want equal representation of women in pro soccer with a women’s team after MLS announces a St. Louis franchise.

                                   CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ The Journal Associate head women’s soccer coach Mike Hutchison and Olivia Osterhage embrace after a game.

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced on Aug. 20 that a female-led men’s soccer franchise will come to St. Louis. Webster women’s soccer players hope they can also be represented as professionals in the boardroom and on the field next.

St. Louis’ MLS ownership, led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, is majority female. This is a first in league history and one of few such groups in all sports MLS Commissioner Don Garber said at the Aug. 20 announcement.

“I think it has been a long time coming and something that St. Louis is excited about as a whole,” Senior midfielder and co-captain Oliva Osterhage said. “It’s awesome to know that the majority of the management is female.”

SC STL would have looked into a women’s professional team had it been granted an MLS team according to a 2017 press release.

“I would love to see St. Louis get a pro women’s team, and I think the city would widely support that,” Osterhage said, “We need to get out there and show everyone that we aren’t just behind the scenes and that women’s soccer is just as big as men’s.”

A St. Louis National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) team did not materialize under the SC STL group. However, the league is in the process of expanding according to NWSL President Amanda Duffy. Four of the nine current NWSL teams have MLS affiliations according to Sports Blog Nation.

St. Louis Athletica of Women’s Professional Soccer folded in 2010. WPS was the predecessor to the NWSL according to Webster professor Dave Lange, author of “Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America’s First Soccer Capital.” However, there is still an appetite in St. Louis for the women’s game.

More than 35,000 people came to see U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) exhibitions at Busch Stadium in 2015 and 2019 according to U.S. Soccer. Both games had more fans in attendance than any game in the NWSL’s nine-year history. The Athletic reported the NWSL recently set a league record for single-game attendance, 25,218.

Webster women’s soccer has won 14 regular season conference championships as of May 13. That total is the most of any Webster women’s team and double the men’s soccer team according to the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) website. The women’s team has also won nine tournament titles while the men’s team has three according to the Athletic Department website.

In a SLIAC preseason poll, coaches chose Webster women’s soccer to win a 15th regular-season championship. Women’s soccer is tied with baseball for the most conference titles overall. A victory would make them the most successful Webster team in the conference’s 30-year history, regardless of gender.

The title would be their eighth consecutive championship according to Webster Athletics’ website. Making an impact is particularly important to co-captain and senior defender Lily Brauer. Brauer returned to the team this season following her third ACL injury.

“The history of success of the women’s soccer team is undeniable and something I’m extremely proud to be a part of,” Brauer said. “This is my last time to showcase all the hard work I have put in over these years and I plan to leave absolutely everything on the field.”

Whether or not players like Brauer get to continue their playing careers beyond Webster, MLS4TheLou ownership shows there are opportunities for diversity in sports business. Those opportunities are now coming to Webster.

“There’s no reason that women can’t [manage] or that somehow they wouldn’t be able to run a men’s team,” Sports Media and Analytics Club President Alexis LaMarsh said “I think the biggest reason we aren’t seeing more women in sports business roles is that there’s a clear assumption that it’s for men. Women aren’t necessarily encouraged to study sports management.”

Webster is now offering Sports and Entertainment Management according to the university website.

“From an enrollment standpoint, our Sports and Entertainment program offerings are brand new,” program director Jack Croghan said. “Telling the great story of Carolyn Kindle-Betz of the Taylor family bringing the MLS to St. Louis, her financing and building a new stadium and her majority ownership of the team will be an outstanding selling point for our new program for years to come.”

MLS4TheLou ownership expects to have the team’s new stadium complete in March 2022. Games will begin around that time as the MLS season begins in March according to the MLS4TheLou website.

Webster men’s soccer is now 1-0 this year after defeating the University of Minnesota Morris 1-0. Women’s soccer has a 1-1 record this season after a 1-0 loss to Dominican University. The next home games for both Webster teams are Sept. 6 and 7, respectively.

 

Contact the writer:

websterjournal@gmail.com

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