U.S. Women play pointless friendly, NWSL suffers

Jeremiah Oshan
SB Nation

There's no good reason for the USWNT to be playing a friendly just days before the start of the NWSL playoffs.

The United States women's soccer team will play a match later tonight. They'll face Switzerland in front of a sold-out crowd in North Carolina. All their big stars will be there.

It will be meaningless.

Meanwhile, many of the USWNT's club teammates will be training without them in preparation for the NWSL playoffs, which start on Saturday. Those games are as meaningful as any they'll play this year.

If that dichotomy seems a bit strange, well, that's because it is.

For whatever reason, U.S. Soccer decided to schedule a friendly just a few days before the start of the NWSL playoffs. A series, it should be noted, that lasts all of two weeks.

While anyone that follows North American club soccer is quite familiar with the idea that leagues often play through international breaks, this is a particularly egregious example of the federation misusing its power to call in players whenever it sees fit.

As you may know, U.S. Soccer pays the wages for the 26 players they have in the NWSL. Without U.S. Soccer's support, the NWSL almost certainly does not exist. The NWSL is in no position to make demands or, really, openly complain about how and when U.S. Soccer chooses to call in players.

But that doesn't mean U.S. Soccer should be treating the league it supports with such little regard.

There's a reason U.S. Soccer chose to prop up the NWSL -- along with significant help from the Mexico and Canada soccer federations, who pay the wages of 24 more players -- and it wasn't just out of a sense of duty. The national federations know that it's in their best interests to have a stable league where their players can get regular time, especially in non-World Cup years. The NWSL, two seasons in, looks like it's at least capable of providing that.

However, U.S. Soccer seems perfectly fine cutting the league off at the knees whenever opportunity suits it. Just this year, the USWNT have scheduled friendlies (April 6 and 10) just days before the NWSL season opener (April 12) and on four more dates that interrupted the season. That's actually one more than a year ago when there were only five dates that conflicted with the NWSL schedule no U.S. friendlies were scheduled during the playoffs.

An argument could surely be made that the USWNT has both the right and maybe even the duty to call its full team together at various points during the summer, but this latest one just seems to be a bit much. The USWNT already has two more friendlies scheduled prior to the final stage of 2015 World Cup qualifying that runs from Oct. 16-26 and the full team could easily be called in as soon as NWSL season has run its course.

What's particularly disappointing is that not only did U.S. Soccer schedule this game with full knowledge that it was just days before the NWSL playoffs, but that they chose to use 11 of the 19 roster spots on players whose teams had qualified for the postseason. This was, obviously, an avoidable situation.

The folks over at Soccer Wire believe U.S. Soccer is effectively treating the USWNT as an ATM, scheduling as many friendlies as possible in order to maximize the revenue they generate and to maybe even offset the costs of helping support the NWSL. One way to help ensure those tickets are sold is to give fans the assurance that the biggest and best names will be playing. Currently, those players are primarily in NWSL and playing on the league's best teams.

That may be the best way to ensure a short-term gain for U.S. Soccer, but it can do nothing but hurt the long-term health of the sport.

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