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Lisa Baird talks expansion, the draft, and more

The NWSL commissioner touched on quite a few topics during her press conference on Tuesday. Here are a few choice quotes.

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On Tuesday morning, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird talked to the media about numerous topics regarding the league, including expansion, the upcoming NWSL Draft, and the challenges the league faces this upcoming year.

Baird made a couple noteworthy announcements on Tuesday, most notably the addition of a Sacramento-based NWSL team in the 2022 season, which would bring the league to 12 teams total. Along with that, she confirmed that a schedule will be released in the coming days.

Below are some choice quotes from Baird about everything from expansion to the draft and more.

On the future of expansion in the league...

“I don’t think there’s a specific number, but I think there’s a principle, which is we want to continue to have the best standard of play in our league. We want to have the best quality players, we want to have the best pipeline, the best resources, stadiums, etc. So I don’t think there’s a number, but I do think that that will be a subject of our strategic planning process ... I do think that one of the things you’ve seen this year with as much expansion activity as we have is ownership, great ownership ... and I’m confident we have that with our expansion teams with Louisville, Kansas City, LA, and Sacramento.”

On how Baird will define success in 2021...

“I’m going to answer that question in two ways. There’s short and long term. Success in ‘21 again will be defined by the safety, the health and wellness of our players. That is our top priority. We’ve just finished up the draft our medical protocols, we’re sharing them with the clubs and the PAs so that we’re really well in full ahead of the ‘21 season. Our priority is to continue to build the engagement with fans and engagement with audience and sponsor and continue on our track to sustainable success in the short term ... and it remains our goal to remain the premier women’s club soccer league in the world with the best parity in the world.”

On the future of the NWSL Draft in order to retain top prospects...

“The draft rules that were changed this year were entirely because of the pandemic, and we need to be very clear and specific about that. Under the circumstances we made the best decision for the league and players ... what we need to do is continue to be nimble and flexible and recognize that we compete in a worldwide market, and we’re doing that ... I think we have some top talent coming into our league this year and I’m really excited about our draft and the players that have registered and coming in.”

On how the NWSL is approaching the upcoming season from a health and safety perspective...

“We learned a lot last year ... it was a shortened season, but we really used the best of our medical taskforce to help us make the guidelines work and in both [the Challenge Cup and Fall Series] they did. We only had one rescheduled game and it was due to poor air quality in Portland, so we were really confident that we landed on the right protocols ... But again, it’s the number one priority for this season, until we can all feel comfortable that the vaccine is doing its job to keep our population safe.”

On fighting through the adversity of the pandemic...

“There’s certain naysayers that might said, ‘God, this is a league that might not have survived.’ You know, we are still growing, and yet, in a year when the pandemic challenged every single rule, every single fundamental of sports ... When you look at the facts, we succeeded by adapting our schedule. We developed medical protocols that worked. We kept our players safe ... So those are the facts and I would say that in a year where I early on was fearful of what might happen, we not only survived. We thrived.”