By CAITLIN MURRAY
The schedule for the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League is not out yet, but it appears the U.S. Women’s National Team stars of the league will be playing a somewhat smaller role next year.
According to sources with the league and close to the national team, players in the USWNT pool will miss at least two months for an extended training camp before the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Portland Thorns FC owner Merritt Paulson, responding Saturday to a tweet that the USWNT players might miss a large chunk of the start of the 2015 NWSL season, said they will miss eight games.
A source close to the team confirmed to SBI that the process was underway to put together an extended camp for the USWNT to prepare for the 2015 World Cup. The camp could be as long as three months, though it is not yet finalized.
Former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, writing on her Swedish-language blog last week about meeting with current coach Jill Ellis at the recent U-20 Women’s World Cup, said Ellis “will probably have the national team gathered from January to March and just let the players play three or four league games.”
That could create a challenging situation for the league as rumors run rampant that the Canadian Soccer Association will remove their players from the NWSL altogether for the 2015 season. Canada Coach John Herdman was asked directly about it in January in a conference call, and told reporters Canada’s participation in the league would be reviewed at the end of 2014, but stopped short of confirming changes would be made.
The Canadian federation, along with U.S. Soccer and the Mexican federation, allocate their national team players in the NWSL and subsidize those players’ salaries as part of a partnership. U.S. Soccer owns and operates the league.
In the run-up to the 2014 World Cup in June, the U.S. Men’s National Team had a two-week camp in Stanford, Calif. starting in mid-May before embarking on a three game friendly tour.
The big question for the 2015 NWSL season has been how the league will handle the World Cup taking place toward the end of the season in June and July.
NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey has reportedly said the 2015 schedule is in the process of being finalized and will be announced soon. A NWSL spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.
The NWSL schedule could add a break for the World Cup or it could be shifted earlier or later. Major League Soccer imposed a two-week break for this summer’s World Cup, enough time to cover the group stage of the tournament.
The 2015 World Cup will begin June 6. For its first two seasons, the NWSL schedule has run from early April to the end of August.