NWSL will consider reproductive rights in expansion

National Women’s Soccer League Commissioner Jessica Berman said reproductive rights will be considered when the league looks at locations for possible expansion teams.

The league, which currently has 12 teams, is looking to add two more in 2024.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month removed constitutional protections for abortion, which is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. There are concerns some states could also move to limit some birth control options and procedures like in-vitro fertilization.

“It’s one of the things that we’re actually currently analyzing, which is looking even at our current markets to see where we have some differentiation between our values and what we stand behind relative to where we have teams located, and what are the solutions we can put in place that we feel comfortable we can commit to and execute on,” she said. “Certainly in the context of expansion that would be part of the analysis.”

The NWSL’s board of governors met this week to look at the state of the league and discuss changes. Among the items discussed was the intention to expand the league to 14 teams.

The league has teams in Texas, where abortion is effectively banned, and in Kentucky, where a ban has been challenged in court. It also has a team in Florida, which has banned abortions after 15 weeks.

The board also committed to develop and improve league officiating, including the use of a video assisted referee, or VAR, for matches starting in 2023.

“Based on the data and everything that I’ve learned over the last two and a half months, it’s clear that instituting and implementing VAR is probably the single-most important thing that we could do to improve the consistency and the quality of the officiating,” Berman said.

The NWSL is also discussing the league’s schedule, which Berman called one of the NWSL’s “pain points.” Because the league plays from spring to fall, many players miss games for tournaments including the World Cup — and teams are left without some of their biggest stars.

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