Matt does his last annual show with WPSL President Sean Jones as he hands off the beat to Mark, moving forward. Mark and Matt ask him about league growth, what made the MN Thunder Academy a good fit for the Minnesota market, rebounding from the year off during COVID, and more!
You can watch the show as a video embedded below or listen to it as a podcast on on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher.
It’s been more than three years since I launched Equal Time Soccer as the only outlet focused entirely on women’s soccer in Minnesota. In that time, our main focus has been on the state’s highest level college program (the University of Minnesota Gophers), women from Minnesota playing professionally abroad, and the growing number of WPSL teams that play over the summer.
As at outlet we’ve been able to do incredibly in-depth features like Emily Peterson’s epic return from her ACL tear to our video production about Minnesotans ‘Going Pro’ and even break stories ahead of all other Minnesota media like St Thomas’ announcement about going DI to Gophers and youth national team star Katie Duong going into the transfer portal.
But now that we’ve got our feet wet, it’s time to grow our team and expand our coverage. I am absolutely thrilled to say we’re adding three entirely new beats to our coverage and bringing on two new contributors to handle them. Annie Williams (former SDSU star, current pro, and Cottage Grove, Minnesota native -- more about her below) will be coming on board to cover St Thomas as they join the Summit League, her former stomping grounds, this fall. Mark Privratsky (my brother who has had spot appearances on shows and covering live tweets before) will come on board to cover the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and Minnesotans playing DI across the country, as well as taking over the WPSL coverage from me. I will continue covering the Gophers and the pros.
In the next few weeks, Annie and Mark will be introducing their new beats on the website and on our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages. In the meantime, if you’re excited to support this kind of expanded coverage and want to show Annie and Mark how welcome they are, you can jump in and becoming a supporter for as little as $2/month on Patreon. I am absolutely thrilled to bring them on board and I know you all will love their work.
Annie Williams — Covers: St Thomas
Annie is a former All Conference and All Region DI soccer player who has also starred for multiple Minnesota teams in the WPSL. After finishing her collegiate career at South Dakota State, has played multiple seasons in the pro leagues in Costa Rica and now in Iceland. She, like Mark, is the cooler sibling in a set of twins and you can find her on both Instagram and Twitter.
Mark Privratsky — Covers: DI MNs, NSIC, WPSL
Mark is a twin of Matt Privratsky who wears glasses. He quit the lowest level division 3 soccer team in the nation (prior to ever practicing) in favor of concert choir in 2007. Mark spends much of his time reading soccer wikipedia and playing “FIFA”. He is excited to direct that energy into his coverage! Find his random musings on soccer, leftist venting, and pop culture brain dumps on twitter: @markprivratsky
The United States World Cup win pushed their fan support on the field to a whole new level. And because of how they won — as outspoken and fearless champions for equal pay and representation — they also built a groundswell of support off the field. As the World Cup champs return to their club teams in the National Women's Soccer League, they’re bringing record breaking crowds with them. Yet their equal pay dispute with the US Soccer Federation is far from resolved. And even less certain is how or if the benefits of a new contract for national team players will trickle down to the rank and file in the NWSL.
Still, it’s clear that the conversation has shifted. And for a breakout star like Rose Lavelle, part of the battle is using her new platform in a way that brings real progress.
“We obviously have a unique platform and us using our voice inspires more people to use theirs. Even just pushing the conversation past just talking and more towards action has helped more female athletes feel like they have the power to do that too.”
Can Minnesota be next?
At the same time, with only nine NWSL teams across the country, it remains to be seen how much the World Cup bump will impact places like Minnesota. With a brand new stadium and a Major League Soccer ownership group with connections and experience in so many other professional leagues, does Minnesota have the right ingredients to be an expansion team?
Carli Lloyd, who has experienced the ups and downs of not only this league but its predecessors, knows it’s not always that simple. But the potential is there.
“There’s obviously tricky things, other than just saying ‘it’d be great to have a women’s team here,” Lloyd said. “But a place like Minnesota I think would probably offer an amazing setup for a team.”
Minnesotan and NWSL veteran Kassey Kallman agrees. Especially if the investment is there.
“I think Minnesota is doing all the right things to have a women’s team at this point. You see the teams that are coming in that are affiliated with MLS teams that are doing so well. The teams that are struggling are the people that are more independent owners that have smaller stadiums. If they put in the resources the same as the do for the men, if they do the marketing the same as the men, it can succeed. People love women’s soccer here.”
Early proof of concept
The highest level women’s soccer team in the state are the Gophers at the U of M. Since current Head Coach Stefanie Golan started in 2012, they’ve won one regular season Big Ten Championship, two Big Ten tournament championships, and had four trips to the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers worst season in that span has still been over .500. That sustained success has led to some of the best attendance in the country for college soccer.
In fact, I’d wager the Gopher Soccer program has sent about as many players into the pro ranks as the football and basketball teams, who receive infinitely more coverage and attention from local media. For more than a decade, Gophers have been going on to have successful careers in Norway (Kelsey Hood) and Germany (Jenni Clark), and while others have made stops in the pro leagues of Sweden, Czech Republic, Iceland, Serbia, Israel, Puerto Rico, and more.
Outside the Twin Cities, high quality programs at the DII and DIII levels. The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference is largely made up of Minnesota state schools and the MIAC and UMAC feature many of the state’s small liberal arts colleges. And players of all levels are featured in the WPSL, a massive semi-pro summer league with six teams in Minnesota and Fargo.
Fans can make a difference
It’s easy to forget when you watch the national team suit up in red, white, and blue at the immaculate Allianz Field, but the world class soccer we get to experience now is really thanks to years of support for lower level soccer up in Blaine. When finances were tight, and it looked like the Stars (formerly the Thunder) might fold, it was the outstanding fan support and game experience at the National Sports Center that helped convince this ownership group to invest in the Stars, and bring them to MLS as the MN United we cheer for today.
So if we want the chance to see these incredible women play soccer week in and week out for a professional team based right here in Minnesota, and not just for one special night, we need to start by showing our support for the fantastic women’s soccer we already have. Check out a Gopher game. Watch a WPSL game online. And tell your friends and family about your experience. Rather than letting the visit from the women’s national team be a one time high that leads to emotional hangover, let’s use this World Cup win as our gateway drug into the wonderful world of Minnesota women’s soccer.
Supporters giving $10/month and up
Chad Flynn & Mary Lahammer
Salvo Soccer Club
Jim & Kristen Gray
Join them in supporting our work!