Today NWSL made official one of the worst kept secrets in women's soccer: the Orlando Pride will be joining the league next season. What is a bit of a surprise is that the team will be managed by ex-USWNT head coach Tom Sermanni.
As in Portland and Houston, the team is connected to an existing MLS team: in this case Orlando City FC, who just began play themselves this season. Though they can't share a name or branding (in this case, a lion), due to the fact that MLS is tied to adidas and NWSL is tied to competitor Nike, NWSL has been eager to find partnerships with MLS teams, due to the existing sports infrastructure and ability to pull from the MLS club's larger base of supporters. The Pride will play the majority of their inaugural season in the vast Citrus Bowl before moving to join their MLS partners in a new stadium being constructed in downtown Orlando.
Sermanni returns after a long absence from coaching club soccer. Since managing the New York Power in the long defunct WUSA, he spent a decade coaching the Australia women and then the US women, before being let go in the leadup to the 2015 World Cup to make way for Jill Ellis. He was an assistant coach with Canada through the World Cup and was considered a top candidate for any NWSL job that became available.
While Sermanni is no doubt a good hire, it remains the case that as of now the only woman among the now 10 head coaches in the league is the Reign's Laura Harvey, reinforcing the few opportunities given to female coaches even in a women's league (a problem which pervades all the way down through NCAA women's soccer).
An expansion means an expansion draft, the details of which will be released later this week. The Reign survived the Dash expansion largely unscathed, losing only Ariannia Romero, who had just been allocated to the team.
The expansion also means that the Reign's travel schedule becomes even more ridiculous. Beyond Portland, the nearest team in the league remains Kansas City. Now they face their longest road trip yet at nearly 3,000 miles. Hopefully the league continues to grow into more convenient locations, like Vancouver, Salt Lake City, or California. But in the meantime, we'll celebrate the newest addition to the league.