It’s often dangerous to live in the world of “what if” but we’re living in dangerous times — and it’s “What If?” Week here at SBN — so here is another scenario worth thinking about. What if teams were coed and, instead of having both MLS and the NWSL, there was one combined league? Is it possible? How would the league be structured? There are so many questions and here is my stream of consciousness about the idea.
It’s crazy to me that in the year 2020 women are still fighting for equal pay. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more popular case in sports right now than the United States Women’s National Team’s current suit against U.S. Soccer. If teams were coed, I imagine pay inequality in the league wouldn’t even be an option, as the team would consist of the most talented and qualified athletes for the position regardless of gender. I often wonder what professional sports would look like today had the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League continued to rule sports after World War II. Would we be arguing for men to be paid more?
That brings me to my next point, if teams are coed then we’re probably cutting the overall number of soccer teams in half rather than doubling them. There would be no need to have two Orlando teams, right? That means that double the number of athletes would be competing for half the number of positions, which would make the talent pool that much harder to break into. Then, there’s the question of requirements. Would there be a specific number of men and women required per roster? I’d imagine there would have to be some type of regulation for equity across the league.
Let’s be clear, I’m not opening an argument on whether women are physically as strong as men, I’m strictly talking player size. On average, women tend to be smaller in stature than men. Soccer continues to be the most physical “no contact” sport with aggressive plays to win. With a coed team, would players be more reserved in the interest of player safety or would we see an even larger number of injuries?
If we were to transition to coed professional sports how would it be accomplished? I imagine an overnight switch wouldn’t go over well, so it would likely have to be a slow roll-out. I’m thinking about how pee-wee sports are typically coed by nature and our elementary soccer teams are coed. It’s in the competitive leagues and middle school where we start to see the split. So, rather than start splitting teams up, we could see organizations keep them coed. It would take a huge generational and cultural shift to make it happen, but it doesn’t seem impossible. Perhaps that is the cautiously optimistic side of me showing its face though.
What say you, Mane Landers? Could a coed league work for soccer? Let me hear your arguments for or against a coed professional soccer league in the comments below, but let’s keep it civilized.