The National Women’s Soccer League: Towards the Successful Professionalization of Women’s Soccer?

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CASE STUDY. The case examines the history, issues, and challenges faced by attempts on American soil to carve out a place for women at the highest levels of the world’s most practised sport.

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The National Women’s Soccer League: Towards the Successful Professionalization of Women’s Soccer?: Abstract

The National Women’s Soccer League: Towards the Successful Professionalization of Women’s Soccer? is a case study by Sébastien Arcand, Jérôme Bilodeau, Joseph Facal and Stéphanie Fortier-Grondin.

The sport of soccer (more commonly known as “football” outside North America) has long been a predominantly men’s game: men’s clubs on every continent generate huge revenues and the FIFA World Cup is the most popular and profitable sporting event on the planet. Slowly but surely, however, women’s soccer is starting to emerge from the long shadow cast by its male counterpart. In 2016, for example, 70,454 spectators gathered at Rio’s Maracanã stadium to watch a women’s soccer semi-final between Sweden and Brazil. The previous year, 53,341 spectators attended the final of the 7th FIFA Women’s World Cup at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada. And now, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), founded in the United States in 2013, is attempting to prove that a national women’s professional league can be profitable. In short, all the stars seem to be aligned for the professionalization of women’s soccer, i.e., the organizational transformation familiar to the federations, clubs, national teams, and other organizations that make up the core of this truly global sport.

The case examines the history, issues, and challenges faced by attempts on American soil to carve out a place for women at the highest levels of the world’s most practised sport.

Teaching objectives

The case has three main objectives:

  • Identify the commercial realities facing the NWSL and place them in the context of organizational growth and professionalization
  • Identify the elements contributing to the professionalization of an industry, including the different aspects of the organization involved in this evolution
  • Introduce students to the use of a framework for analyzing professionalization in a specific business context (in this case, sports)

Main themes covered

This case was designed for use in the context of an undergraduate course on business strategy, but it can also be effectively used in any undergraduate or graduate course addressing themes such as:

  • The management of sports organizations
  • The competitive environment of organizations
  • The sociology of firms, and sports marketing

Professors are free to make the necessary adjustments based on their objectives.

Concepts & theories related to the case

  • Business Model Generation (Osterwalder and Pigneur)
  • Professionalization (Kikulis et al.)

Additional information

Also available in French.

Teaching notes are available for teachers only. Contact the HEC Montréal Case Centre for more information.

Additional information

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