Diminishing returns: Canadian numbers in NWSL continue to drop

NWSL-Logo-516x340It’s the law of diminishing NWSL returns.

In 2013, when the U.S.-based league launched, the Canadian program used all 16 of its allocations that it had negotiated to get in the league. The Canadian Soccer Association subsidized the players salaries — while the Canadian players would get guaranteed roster spots.

In 2014, Canada had planned to use all 16 spots, but Desiree Scott chose to leave the league for Notts County and Selenia Iacchelli failed a pre-season physical. National women’s team coach John Herdman chose not to replace them — so, in the end, only 14 of 16 allocations were used.

In 2015, a Women’s World Cup year, Canada used just 13 of the 16 spots.

On Monday, Canada announced the NWSL allocations for this year. And it’s down to 11. Despite the fact that NWSL has 10 teams — two more than it did in 2013 and therefore more roster openings — our number of allocations is at an all-time low. These 11 include youngsters Janine Beckie, Sabrina D’Angelo, Shelina Zadorsky and Josee Belanger; as well, Scott has made the decision to return to NWSL.

So why only 11?

In 2014, when Herdman decided to leave two allocations unclaimed, he caused as much of a firestorm as he’s ever caused since taking over the Canadian women’s program. “At this stage, we don’t have that depth of talent,” he said back then. “My commitment is to put the best Canadian players in that league, and I can’t make that commitment at this point.”

Herdman is playing it closer to the vest this time — and he should, with Olympic qualifiers kicking off Thursday in Houston. He’s not making any public pronouncements on why the NWSL allocation number is at its lowest level yet. But, the CSA has confirmed that it still has 16 allocations at its disposal.

So why the drop? The program also needs to ensure that if it’s subsidizing players, that they’re getting significant minutes throughout the NWSL season. If a player is on the sidelines, is that a good use of resources? On the flipside, some will argue that even being a depth player is good for a Canadian’s development —that having the chance to train at high levels will help in the long run.

But, the deep underlyinh question is: Is there really only enough room at the inn for a total of 10 teams to take 11 subsidized Canadian players?

The allocations:

Houston Dash
Janine Beckie
Allysha Chapman

FC Kansas City
Desiree Scott

Orlando Pride
Josée Belanger
Kaylyn Kyle

Portland Thorns FC
Christine Sinclair

Washington Spirit
Stephanie Labbé
Diana Matheson
Shelina Zadorsky

Western New York Flash
Sabrina D’Angelo
Adriana Leon



About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.