Voting in America is broken. No, I’m not talking politics or the vote to see who moves forward on The Voice. I’m talking about fan voting for Goal of the Week and Save of the Week in the NWSL.
The players are surely thankful to the fans for voting for them, and it is great to see teammates vote for each other and use social media to get fans to vote in support of their nominated teammates. And most of the time it doesn’t matter.
When talking about this very topic with our own Jacob Cristobal, he said, with Game of Thrones as his inspiration, "A Harristannister always votes for Save of the Week, and that's a problem."
If Ashlyn Harris is nominated, she will not only win -- she will win with a margin of victory so large that it solves the question: "Was her save just out of this world, or are fans voting for her personally over her save?"
The NWSL isn’t stupid. They are picking out the saves for each goalkeeper that the fans vote on. And without fail, they put up Harris each week she is eligible, knowing that her name will draw fan traffic to the site and get her fan base to vote. It’s not an accident on their part.
But how do we make the award have more meaning? Because right now this award is more "The NWSL Presents the Ashlyn Harris Save of the Week Award" than something that has some small amount of objectivity to it. Something handed out to goalkeepers with better saves than name recognition.
The NWSL end of the year awards (Coach, Rookie, Defender, Goalkeeper of the Year and MVP) are voted on with a breakdown of the media getting 25% of the vote, while coaches/owners get another 25% and players get 50%. That means players who aren't just the most popular with the fans have a shot to be nominated for and win these awards.
So why not do that for the NWSL weekly awards? Fans get 40% of the vote to make sure they keep engagement, media gets a 30% stake in it and the players themselves get the last 30%. The fans get the largest percent of the vote to make their voice heard; the media who, hopefully, watch all the games will bring a fairly unbiased vote; and the players themselves get equal percent as the media and are given a way to support their teammates.
If the NWSL wants to keep the voting 100% to the fans, they can with a simple fix to the current system. Have a top three each week. If the NWSL would pick three saves and three goals and lets fans vote on the top three instead of having five to ten to pick from, fans would have both an easier time watching all the nominations, and the same three goalkeepers wouldn’t be likely to show up week after week.
This is an easy fix. A fix that would stop the NWSL Goal and Save of the Week from being a vote for most popular player of the enthusiastic fan base of the NWSL. Which is why it likely won’t be changed. #JustNWSLThings, right?