By CAITLIN MURRAY
The Houston Dynamo will announce on Thursday they are joining the National Women’s Soccer League as an expansion team – and not only are the league’s other eight franchises in favor, they are supporting measures to expedite Houston’s team-building, sources have told SBI.
U.S. Soccer told the NWSL’s founding franchises about the Houston Dynamo’s interest in joining the league at the end of July, sources said. Without dissent, all eight teams supported Houston’s entry into the league, which was finalized and approved this week.
The clubs had been pushing for expansion in 2014, but U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati had initially recommended the league hold off on expansion, according to a source. The U.S. federation’s position changed with Major League Soccer-backed Dynamo’s interest and months of research and planning.
The other franchises that had been considered for 2014 expansion had “nowhere near” the resources of Dynamo and clubs felt Houston would seamlessly be able to transition to the year-old NWSL for 2014, a source said.
With roughly four months until the 2014 NWSL season kicks off, the Dynamo will have an expedited timeline for team-building.
The Dynamo’s new NWSL franchise will have the fifth pick in the first round of the 2014 college draft and the first pick in the second and fourth rounds, according to sources who said plans could still change. The draft is set for Jan. 17.
Rosters are frozen from Dec. 10 to Dec. 22 with no trades allowed, one source said.
Houston will participate in an expansion draft that is not yet finalized. Rules for the draft are dependent on whether the U.S. Women’s National Team can secure 27 players for allocation, three per team, a source said.
U.S. Soccer founded the NWSL late last year with the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican federations subsidizing members of their national teams to be allocated within the league.
The Canadian federation may only allocate 16 players as opposed to 18 next year, despite the addition of Houston, a source said. Mexico had been planning to reduce their allocation number from 12 to eight for 2014, but it remains to be seen if they increase to nine with the entry of Dynamo.
Sources declined to speak to SBI on the record because details surrounding the expansion have not been formally announced.
Unlike the 2013 schedule, next year will feature a balanced schedule of 24 games with all clubs matching up three times, a source said. Houston’s games will be played at BBVA Compass Stadium, which will be scaled back to accommodate seating for about 7,000. Capacity for the venue is just more than 22,000.
Dynamo had first publicly announced their interest in an NWSL team late last month but sources told SBI that Dynamo had been working directly with U.S. Soccer for months on making it happen.
Houston becomes the first expansion team and ninth franchise in the NWSL, the top league of women’s soccer in the U.S.
What do you think of this news? Will this be a good move for the NWSL? Will Houston be able to build a competitive team? Will there be enough allocated players?
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