Sweeney: Even with NWSL’s stars headed to England, that’s a good thing — for both the league and for the fans

As you’ve probably heard recently, the United States women’s national team stars have signed contracts with teams in England’s FAWSL.

It started a month ago when Hanson’s Samantha Mewis signed with Manchester City. Rose Lavelle, formerly with the Boston Breakers prior to their early 2018 demise, signed with the Blues eight days later. This week, Tobin Heath and Christen Press signed with Manchester United, and on Saturday morning, it was announced that Tottenham Hotspur had signed Alex Morgan on a short-term deal.

Add that to the number of NWSL players out on loan — Rachel Daly of Houston is on-loan with West Ham — and with certain players opting out of the fall season, it seems that the American top flight league doesn’t have anyone to watch for the foreseeable future.

At least that’s what some on social media say.

Nonsense, I say.

First, let’s be realistic: we need the NWSL to succeed in this country, and we need eyes on it — especially the eyes of the younger generations, both male and female, playing soccer. When it’s on CBS, turn it on. And I’m standing here hoping that the ratings in Boston and Providence’s markets are high enough to warrant the league looking at our area as a viable women’s soccer market, given that the league is expanding — Louisville in 2021, Los Angeles in 2022 — over the next few years. If you’re on the Bring The Breakers Back train and have been since late January 2018, you need to watch NWSL just as passionately as you watch MLS, NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL, Premier League, etc.

Second, there are still USWNT stars in this league. Former Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is in Chicago. Mallory Pugh and Carli Lloyd are on Sky Blue FC, right down the road, along with USWNT part timer McCall Zerboni. Savannah McCaskill — drafted by the Breakers a few days before the team folded — is with Naeher in Chicago. Portland has a few stars, including Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair. Orlando has Brazilian legend Marta, along with Americans Ali Krieger, Sydney Leroux, and former Breaker Julie King. Milford, N.H.’s Morgan Andrews is with OL Reign. And not to be forgotten, Kristie Mewis is in Houston with the Dash.

And sure, the big USWNT stars are now in England. That’s fair. It’s fantastic that they are headed there to get that paycheck and the opportunity to play against some of the best players in Europe. And I don’t think this is a bad thing whatsoever: with those players gone, there are now spots in the top flight for the future of American women’s soccer to step up into the spotlight and develop and improve — positions that wouldn’t be available if Mewis, Lavelle, Heath, Press, Daly, and Morgan didn’t take advantage of these opportunities to play in England.

So let’s stop with the cries of woe and the B.S. reasons not to watch the NWSL, because they don’t hold any water in this space.

And they certainly don’t hold water with a league that isn’t sinking.