Developing the Next Generation of NWSL Stars

By Scott Popp

The goals came early and often Saturday afternoon in the stadium at St. Thomas Aquinas high school. GSI Pride midfielder Josee Stiever scored a goal just minutes after kickoff and eight more followed on the hot, sunny afternoon. Despite the big 9-0 victory and onslaught of goals there was little fanfare, such is the nature for a WPSL game.

The Women’s Premiere Soccer League is a developmental league with over 100 teams across the nation. It is primarily used as a development league for college players, but for some NWSL teams, including FC Kansas City, it’s a chance to get some practice players some much needed time on the pitch.

“It’s awesome to have somewhere we can come and just play games because it’s kind of hard to mirror that in practice,” defender Tori Patterson said. “To be able to come out here and compete, it’s a fun time. It’s a great team and Huw (Williams) and Derrick (Shoare) are great guys.”

Patterson and Stiever are just two of the six players who split their time between FC Kansas City and the Pride. Each of the players are recent college graduates that have been training with Kansas City since March. These players train every day with the team as they try to earn a spot on the NWSL team’s official roster

Many of the players are using the time to get up to speed with the professional level that is much more demanding than what they were used to in college.

“The level is just so much higher,” Patterson said. “The things coach expects from you; he just expects the best. It’s an awesome environment to be around because you push yourself every day to be the best player you can be.”

“It reminds me a little bit of the high school to college transition,” Stiever said. “Getting used to the speed of play is the main thing. And we’ve been adjusting this whole time and seeing a lot of improvement in our game.”

However, getting up to speed with the Blues can be challenging without any time on the field during game situations. That’s where the GSI Pride comes in.

Former FC Kansas City general manager and assistant coach Huw Williams founded the Pride just this season; the team is made up of many college, or recent college, players as well as the six FCKC practice players. Their WPSL schedule started in June and runs through July and has provided those KC players with an opportunity to get some much-needed game action.

“We’re really lucky we kind of get the best of both worlds,” Stiever said. “We get really good training with FCKC during the week and then on the weekends we can come and play with the Pride.”

The games with the Pride have provided an opportunity for the Blues practice players to keep improving as they try to make their mark in the NWSL. And despite not seeing time on the pitch with FC Kansas City, Stiever said they are motivated to keep improving.

“There are a lot of girls that are a lot older than us and it’s our first year,” Stiever said. “We’re young so we’re kind of looking big picture and that really keeps us motivated knowing that this is our first year doing this and we have a lot of potential to grow.”

The GSI Pride are currently undefeated in their conference as they head to Minnesota and Iowa for their final two games of the regular season.