Reign FC has faced significant challenges, both on the field and off, as the brand-new franchise heads into Sunday's start of the NWSL season.
TUKWILA — Reign FC’s countdown to opening day is almost complete.
It’s a fair question.
Reign FC is Seattle’s professional women’s soccer team in the National Women’s Soccer League. The franchise and the league are brand new as U.S. Soccer has combined with federations in Canada and Mexico to try once more to make professional women’s soccer work in the region.
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The inaugural season kicks off this weekend, and Seattle — which was awarded the franchise in late November — faces the Chicago Red Stars on the road Sunday.
For the Reign, challenges on the field and off have been significant.
The team will start without its two most well-known stars as goalkeeper Hope Solo is out following wrist surgery and midfielder Megan Rapinoe is on loan with France’s Lyon until summer. Both are expected back around the end of June. Another U.S. international, forward Amy Rodriguez, is out for the season as she starts a family.
On the business side, owner Bill Predmore admitted Thursday that he is “disappointed” with season-ticket sales so far, and corporate sponsorships haven’t met expectations.
Elsewhere, the team’s general manager, Amy Carnell, resigned Monday for personal reasons.
“Probably somewhat naively, I thought it was going to be less difficult than it’s proven to be,” Predmore said. “I think I just underestimated the task at hand and really how short a period four months really is.”
Part of that task is brand awareness, and Predmore acknowledged that he and the organization haven’t done well enough getting out in the soccer-friendly community.
“Sometimes people are like, ‘Are you a basketball team?’ ” midfielder Keelin Winters said.
And, yes, the Reign FC name was in part an homage to the Seattle’s women’s basketball team in the American Basketball League from 1996 to 1998.
Still, optimism is high that the team can reach a level of excitement seen last summer. That came when the Sounders Women, a local amateur team, benefited from the lack of a functional professional league and acquired players like Solo, Rapinoe, Winters, along with other U.S. stars Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux.
Those players weren’t paid, but Starfire Stadium — also Reign FC’s home — was nearly packed for every game.
Coach Laura Harvey, who also assumed GM duties this week, said the Reign is particularly deep in midfield and has a strong defense, which will help make up for Solo’s absence in goal.
“I think the girls who maybe people don’t know too much about at the moment will be the ones that surprise people,” said Harvey, who came by way of the successful Arsenal Ladies club in England. “But we like it that way. We like to be surprised by what we do on the field.”