Birmingham Legion to join USL W
A much-anticipated announcement is finally made
Alabama’s women’s soccer has long been a model of strength, most especially in the youth ranks and most recently at the University of Alabama, which had its best season ever, going all the way to the NCAA championship second round. But until this year, the closest the state has come to the professional women’s game is FC Birmingham’s team in the UWS, a national pro-am league.
With today’s announcement, the Legion is tripling the state’s presence at that level of the women’s soccer pyramid. In a move that was not a surprise to many around town, the Legion will be joining the USL W starting with its 2023 season. That season should start some time over the summer and will be the second for the league, which started in 2022. Note that I didn’t say doubling the state’s presence; earlier this year NASC up in Huntsville announced it will have a USL W team this season, so the Legion team will have an immediate derby rival within the league.
The league describes itself as “pre-professional” and will stand one tier below the USL Super League, which was originally planned for a fall 2023 start but is nor delayed until 2024. The league started with an impressive 44 teams last year, and currently has 27 expansion teams in the works (6 of which likely won’t start until 2024). The teams include existing USL clubs and independent clubs with no men’s team. Clearly there is a significant demand for a true career pathway in women’s soccer; along with the USL W and UWS there is also WPSL and the three leagues combine for over 250 teams.
Details on the Legion women’s team are yet to come. That in fact includes the team’s name, as for various obscure legal and promotional reasons the team has to be named differently (unlike in other countries). Also missing are a coach, a schedule, and, of course, the players.
It’s also worth noting that this does not preclude a USL Super League team at some point in the future.