National Women’s League Founded by FC Copa President Roberto Aguas and Host of New Jersey Copa FC’s Team Makes Move To Pro Status With Groundbreaking Partnership from NISA
In an expansive step towards the future of both men's and women's soccer in North America, United Women’s Soccer (UWS) and the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) have announced an alliance linking the two organizations. The relationship between the national pro-am women's league and the third tier professional men's league will reflect a combined vision to create greater opportunity, improved operations, and merit-based advancement for women's clubs, players and leadership.
“In a time where there are several professional and amateur leagues for men across North America, there still is a huge gap between the college and professional ranks on the women’s side.” UWS Chief Operating Officer Roberto Aguas. “When UWS co-founders Joe Ferrara, Francisco Cleaves and I started on this journey, we always had a goal to take this league to the highest level possible. Women deserve equal opportunities, and, with the amount of talent and interest across women's soccer in the U.S. & Canada, it makes sense to expand the opportunities to play professionally. While UWS fills that gap by providing the highest pathway to pro for the amateur player, its efforts to foster talent development will be augmented through this alliance and the development of a new women’s pro league.”
Aguas is also Founder and President of New Jersey Copa FC. New Jersey Copa FC has operated in the UWS Pro-Am for the past four seasons (five years with the cancellation of last season).
The alliance between NISA and UWS is committed to advancing the women’s game and giving women equal opportunities in this game. With the amount of talent and interest across women’s soccer in the United States, it makes sense to expand the opportunities to play professionally.
"This alliance will provide women's clubs, athletes, coaches, and staff a growth path to the highest levels of the game," said NISA Commissioner John Prutch. "We couldn't be more excited for how NISA is growing and finding allies like UWS in creating an open system based on merit. The need is critical, and the opportunity is evident to advance the men's and women's game together."
Even with the deepest pool of talent in the world, investment in the women's game in North America still lags way behind men's soccer. Options are few after a female player graduates from college. There are only 10 teams with limited rosters currently in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) while the rest of the pro-eligible players have to consider a move to Europe. Most countries, however, limit the number of foreign players on their respective club teams. Another professional women's soccer league in the United States will address many of these challenges and allow players to continue their development state-side. The mission of UWS is to advance the sport of women's soccer and this alliance with NISA directly aligns with that statement. Both organizations share the same values and believe that an open system is the best way to increase the investment in women's soccer. Four current NISA teams operate UWS teams under the same moniker; Detroit City FC, Michigan Stars FC, and the New Jersey Teamsterz.
"This is a game-changer for women’s professional soccer, and I’m thrilled for young players and aspiring pros, not to mention, the organizations that work tirelessly to provide a women’s team for their players and community,” said UWS Executive Director Stephanie Cleaves. “More professional opportunities will lead to the advancement of the women’s game.”
Aguas continued, “from a personal perspective, I share with immense pride the news about the launch of United Women’s Soccer PRO (UWS PRO) to become the second national women’s professional league in the US. UWS PRO, via a partnership with NISA (the men’s division II professional league in the US) and Club9, will look to change the landscape and opportunities for all women who strive to play soccer professionally in the US. As someone who has fought, and passionately advocated for, gender equality in all aspects of life in addition to the sport, this development marks one of the proudest moments in my life.”
UWS focuses on professionally run operations, requiring teams to adhere to minimum standards that are overlooked by other pro-am leagues. Female players deserve the same facilities and amenities as their male counterparts, and fans deserve the best game-day experience possible.
“We are adding to our foundation of raising the level of operations across the pro-am spectrum,” says UWS Executive Director Stephanie Cleaves. “That goes beyond the field of play. It includes exposure and opportunities in management, front office roles, and business development.”
In just five years, over 100 UWS alumnae have inked professional contracts that include: 2019 UWS Championship MVP Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais), 2019 UWS Player of the Year Kate Howarth (Orlando Pride), 2018 All-UWS honoree Stephanie Labbé (FC Rosengård), 2017 UWS Player of the Year Deyna Castellanos (Atlético Madrid), 2017 All-UWS honoree Bethany Balcer (Reign FC), 2016 UWS Player of the Year Krystyna Freda (Apollon Ladies FC), five-time Bulgarian National Player of the Year Evi Popadinova (Napoli), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Nicole Baxter (Sky Blue FC), Emily Dolan (Real Betis) and many more.
UWS and NISA will make more announcements in the coming weeks.
For more information, visit www.fccopa.com and follow @NJCopaFC on social media.