In just a couple of months the United States will be hoping it’s third time lucky for women’s football as the new National Women’s Soccer League kicks off - with hope, hype and apprehension attached to it.
The eight team competition was given the go-ahead in November last year and aims to be every bit as entertaining as previously run women’s professional soccer leagues in America, with the likes of Kelly Smith and Marta having graced the US shores in the past.
However, despite the unquestionable quality and the continuing rise in popularity of women’s soccer in America, there have been issues in previous years with finances and sustainability. Two leagues have struggled and eventually collapsed in the last ten years.
Despite being one of only a few leagues to be professional (the English WSL is semi-professional) and being able to entice some of the world’s best players, women’s professional soccer in America has struggled to match the attendances and TV viewing figures that the national team attracts.
On the back of the United States’ World Cup win in 1999, the Women’s United Soccer Association league was formed in 2001, which looked to build on American soccer’s greatest ever achievement.
Unfortunately, the league struggled after initial promise, eventually falling apart and collapsing in 2003.
U.S Soccer authorities tried again in 2009 with the launch of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) League, but again, this lasted only three seasons, with players forced to join international training camps or seek other clubs.
There is much hope that the NWSL will be more sustainable and financially viable, while maintaining the entertainment of women’s football and its marketing value.
The U.S national team players will have their salaries paid by U.S Soccer, while some players from Canada and Mexico will also see their federations pay their wages.
Clubs are likely to play in smaller stadiums to reduce costs, while the number of elite international players from abroad seems to have significantly dropped, if early signs are anything to go by.
While almost every member of the U.S Women’s National Team will be involved in the league, teams appear to have shunned big international names that have played in America in the past.
With the exception of the players from Canada and Mexico, only a few internationals have been hand-picked from abroad, including Wales’ Jess Fishlock, who has joined former Arsenal boss Laura Harvey in Seattle, and Australia’s Anna De Vanna, who has joined Sky Blue.
That said, this may not be entirely down to the league in America, but could be down to other nations bridging the gap.
We all know about the English WSL and how it is taking the steps to raise its profile and attendances, and this has seen the league maintain almost all of its big players - with the exception of Fishlock, who was named the WSL Player of the Season in 2012.
Add to this the quality in France, Germany and Sweden, players now appear to have the view that while America is still a huge attraction, they don’t need to go stateside to fulfil their footballing ambitions.
The pull of Europe seems to be ever increasing in women’s football, which was emphasised when US internationals Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath joined Olympique Lyonnais and Paris St Germain respectively.
While Heath’s move to Paris will not have made the headlines David Beckham’s did, this was still a significant coup for the ambitious French side; as a result of their moves, Heath and Rapinoe will miss the first two months of the league season.
The U.S, Canada and Mexico internationals have been evenly distributed amongst the eight teams, while the top players from colleges across the country have been allocated through a draft system - similar to that used in the NFL and NBA.
A supplementary draft took place this week, containing free agents and college players, with the eight squads now almost complete.
While the league is lacking the international talent of previous years, there is still enough quality there to ensure it will pull fans through the turnstiles.
Much will rest on the U.S international players’ popularity to keep people engaged, but to make the league successful, the key factor will be the authorities learning from previous mistakes.
Two failed attempts at launching a sustainable league make this latest challenge all the more significant, and you have to wonder if it fails again, will this be the final nail in the coffin for professional soccer in America?
Let’s certainly hope not, and let’s hope those running the league learn from previous mistakes, and build on the success of the national team, who continue to excel and produce some of the world’s finest players.
Kieran Theivam is a former journalist and follower of women's football. His blog can be found here and he can be followed on Twitter here.