The US Soccer Federation’s Report on Abuse in Women’s Soccer Is Damning for Club Soccer Nationwide

The report was released on Monday

Portland Thorns
Portland Timbers fans set off red smoke in support of NWSL players.
Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Monday, a blockbuster report from former Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates and the law firm King & Spalding explored the pervasiveness of abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer. (The report was conducted on behalf of the U.S. Soccer Federation.) Some of the events discussed in the report, such as the behavior of former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, have been the subject of investigative reports on their own.

But if the case of Riley — who’d engaged in troubling conduct during his time in Portland, which did not stop him from a job offer from another NWSL team — is worrisome on its own, the cumulative effect of reading this report is to get a sense of a system that’s deeply broken.

Riley isn’t the only former coach discussed in these findings. In their article about the investigation, the New York Times describes the allegations against former Racing Louisville F.C. coach Christy Holly, including Holly bringing in a player to watch game film and “[groping] the player’s genitals and breasts each time the film showed she made a mistake.”

That sense of the brokenness of a system is pervasive when reading the report. And that doesn’t just apply to the NWSL. Several teams in the NWSL share ownership with men’s teams in MLS or the second-division USL Championship. And if you’re going to be critical of (say) the Portland Thorns ownership for their handling of Riley’s behavior, that also implies criticism of the Portland Timbers leadership.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations — citing the USSF’s oversight over the NWSL as a factor that gives it leverage over those who might abuse their power. (According to The Athletic, the USSF plans to “act upon the recommendations.”) But it also addresses the owners and executives under whose watch those abuses took place: “[W]e recommend that the NWSL, which has governing authority over NWSL teams, owners, and personnel, determine whether disciplinary action is appropriate for any of these owners or team executives.”

That’s something that could have repercussions throughout professional soccer in the United States. And with a second women’s professional league set to debut next year, it’ll be interesting to see they establish systems to prevent this kind of behavior from taking place.

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