Chronicle: San Diego Wave, Jill Ellis eye global game
As San Diego’s new wave tries to compete in the best women’s soccer league in the world, their next opponent deserves an introduction.
Meet OL Reign, who will be at the University of San Diego for Saturday’s pre-season game at 7 p.m.
OL stands for the parent company of Seattle-based soccer team Olympic Lyon, short for Olympique Lyonnais.
The same Olympic Lyon of the best men’s football league in France? The same club founded in 1950?
Women’s National Soccer League Challenge Cup
Saturday: 7 p.m., Torero Stadium
For the National Women’s Soccer League, it was an exciting moment when tradition-rich Lyon took control of Reign FC in December 2019.
Promoting competitive women’s football has long been a priority, said Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas.
For Reign competitors, there was also this:
A whiff of sacred blue. (Translation: Wow.)
Raising the competitive bar, Reign’s new French connection can funnel world-class players and know-how into what had been a solid franchise that was part of the NWSL’s launch in 2013.
Lyon’s women’s team is among the strongest in the sport. He won six Champions League titles, including a record four in a row from 2016 to 2019.
“We are here of course in a very humble way, but we are here to win things,” Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas said, according to Reuters.
San Diego is where Wave executives have focused most of their efforts since the franchise launched in June.
Internationally, they have also made progress.
Like it should be.
Although club chairman Jill Ellis said the Wave had no desire – repeat, none – for a foreign football club to buy control of operations, she said she was happy with the international players who joined the Wave and said the San Diego club had a world advantage. .
“Is there potential to build relationships and partnerships with clubs in Europe? Definitely,” Ellis said.
She said that collaborative enterprises are possible. Sharing ideas with a Euro team. Broadening the profile of each club.
“Certainly we are exploring ways to grow our brand,” Ellis said. “We want to be a local team, but we also want to have a global presence in terms of visibility and our players. For example, a few years ago Alex Morgan was loaned out to a European club (from Orlando to Tottenham in England). Are we going to loan out Alex Morgan? Probably not. Because she’s happy here. But, there has already been this story.
Is San Diego, the city and the region, an effective recruiting tool to attract international players?
Ellis answered candidly. “Hell, yes,” she laughs.
Positioning the wave to understand the international football scene, Ellis and coach Casey Stoney are Englishmen with extensive overseas football experience. Ellis coached the United States Women’s National Team to a pair of World Cup victories between 2015 and 2019 after working for several years in national youth programs that competed internationally. Stoney, a former Manchester United player and manager in England, has impressed Wave players such as Australian midfielder Emily van Egmond, a former Reign player who played professionally in Germany and Australia.
“There’s just a very high level of professionalism here,” van Egmond said. “I think our coaching staff has really set the bar for what it’s like to be a San Diego Wave player.”
Americans form the majority of NWSL rosters. And across five pre-season games, the Wave’s best attacking players have been the Americans in striker Morgan and 23-year-old midfielder Taylor Kornieck, although internationals such as England’s Jodie Taylor, Sofia Jakobbson (Sweden) and Marleen Schimmer (Germany) also helped.
“From our league perspective, we want to create and provide as many opportunities as possible for Americans,” Ellis said, noting that five internationals (excluding players who get green cards) are allowed on rosters. of the NWSL.
For the NWSL, collaborations between its members and European teams will require league oversight that amounts to a balancing act. The growth of the sport is encouraged and supported, but as Ellis noted, the league’s “protocols around those relationships” are part of the equation.
As part of the sport’s global growth, the International Challenge Cup, an invitational event featuring teams from the United States and Europe, crowned three winners: NWSL teams from North Carolina and Portland. And Lyons. Going forward, count on women’s soccer to foster more U.S.-international collaborations.
“Where we’re headed is very similar to the men’s game, where you see a lot more international players playing in different leagues around the world,” Ellis said. “Even the Mexican league just opened up the possibility of having non-nationals play in their league. Which, again, just makes our game grow.”
The wave will not be outdone, she said.
“The great thing about our club now is that once you start signing players from all over the world, you generate interest,” Ellis said. “We have had more (player) agents contacting us with an interest in our club. Because, hey, we were a non-entity last year. We did not exist. And now we are gradually building and gaining a foothold. We are a great destination.
Saturday’s game against the Reign, a 3-1 winner of the teams game on April 14 in Seattle, is the Wave’s final tune-up before the regular season kicks off on May 1 in Houston. San Diego’s home opener is May 7 against Gotham FC.