So all of the players who attended the National All-Star Championships in Minnesota were told there would be a new Territorial Season starting, in addition to a Women’s NA4.
ERugbyNews interviewed USA Women’s National Team coach Kathy Flores (subscription required) after the NASCs and this new territorial season (April through June):
“We have composed a TU season for 2008, mostly based on seedings from 2006 and current friendlies between teams,” Flores said. “Top-tier teams will play two games away and one home, with the opposite being true for Tier 2 teams. Since this [structure] is experimental, we will review it in the 2008 NASC with a thought to creating a true competitive, championship structure. Hopefully this would lead us into a strong NA4 tournament with our players coming off a competitive season, not just two matches.”
So, the way I read it, we’ll all play our club seasons in the fall towards the club championships, then our spring seasons will be for developmental play within the clubs and territorial for all players who qualify for their territorial teams.
Then two NA4 teams will be selected out of the territorial teams to play two Canadian teams (following the lead of the Men’s NA4). The TU season, NASC, and NA4 create more competition at a higher level for women’s players leading into the next women’s World Cup (something the Eagles always mention not having enough of). There’s also talk of a Eagle tour to Britain. This means they’ll need greater depth in this TU & upwards pool of players.
As many as 52 of these players (plus some who took time off) could be involved in the upcoming Women’s NA4, with an eye toward the 2010 World Cup. But it’s likely Flores will be looking further a-field – even to the U23 ranks.
“Though we hope that players could do both the NA4 and then be available for selection for a December tour, chances are we may be selecting deeper into the pool to cover selections for both events,” Flores said. “If so, it allows the next level of player development opportunities also.”
Overall, it makes sense from a national team standpoint. Give the players in the pool more opportunities and more competition, the best will rise to the top and can then play internationals. It’s essentially expanding what we’re alreading doing, but in a more formal manner. The NA4 is a cool idea too.
That said, how are most of the TU players going to be able to afford this? More games means more money spent. And unlike Canada carding their top players, aka the Athlete Assistance Program, most American women’s players don’t receive a whole lot of help. Most players can only afford to purchase so many airline tickets and miss so many days of work before it starts to take a toll.
Clubs with TU & higher players are also going to feel the loss. Most likely in the colder climates, since most of these clubs can’t even get on a field until April. Spring will truly become “developmental” as clubs work to get their inexperience players on the field and make sure their roster is healthy.
Overall … I like this. I think it’s a good thing. I’m just curious about the growing pains.