The Women’s Premier League (WPL) has released their 2023 schedule and participating teams. As foreshadowed in last year’s Ignite the Change campaign, the WPL is moving towards professionalization. They began that work in 2022 with a cross-league working group composed of players, alumni and other key stakeholders. This group worked with the current League Leadership and assisted with creating a new league agreement and an expanded schedule. While the current League Leadership is running the day-to-day they are working on seating a Board of Directors that will be tasked with developing strategic plans, fundraising and support in hiring staff and league operations personnel.
Schedule and Postseason
The schedule begins later (see schedule) than in years past starting on April 15 with the postseason changing from a “festival” atmosphere to the top-four teams meeting at the semifinals on October 7. The winners then move on to the Championship on October 14. League organizers are especially ecstatic about the schedule being split as this allows for players to participate in other development opportunities, summer 7s, and allows International Athletes time off for assemblies.
The number of matches is also up from eight to twelve (fourteen for teams that make SFs and Finals). This is critical as the WPL tries to keep up with the rest of the world. For example, Allianz Premier teams play up to 18 regular season matches and twenty if they make it to the postseason. More matches means more opportunities for player development as the coaching staff is no longer forced to grow players over a few months, but can now allow them to develop over an entire year. Teams can also elect to schedule friendlies before the April start to bolster their development even further.
Number of Teams
Another big change is the number of participating teams, in years past it was ten but this year there will only be seven: Beantown, Berkeley All Blues, Chicago NS, Colorado Gray Wolves, Life West, New York, and the Twin Cities Amazons.
There was an intentional choice by some clubs to step back as they evaluated the new league agreements and expanded schedule. One such club is the San Diego Surfers who elected to focus on their D1 side and have also created a touring side. The other two teams not participating in the WPL this year are the Atlanta Harlequins and Oregon Rugby Sports Union (ORUS) as they have opted to play in the club structure.
Key to the WPL strategy going forward is keeping existing partnerships in place with USA Rugby High Performance and ensuring that channels of communication continue around assemblies and availability of players. New unions could include working with Major League Rugby (MLR) and Premier Rugby Sevens.
How to Watch
WPL matches are uploaded to Youtube after they occur. Make sure to subscribe and enable notifications so you never miss a match.
The women’s sports market is exploding and we applaud the WPL for taking massive steps in their off season. Change is inevitably hard and there will be bumps along the way, but we can’t wait for the season to begin! The Berkeley All Blues won the Championship last year and will kick off their defense of the Cup against Life West. Other matches on the opening weekend include Beantown versus Chicago and New York against the Gray Wolves.