Alyssa Mautz has been with the Red Stars since 2012, back when the team was part of the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite, a year before the National Women’s Soccer League was born.
The NWSL is the third attempt at a professional women’s soccer league in America and has grown from its humble beginning.
“The first year, we didn’t even have a locker room,” Mautz said. “We were in a basement. We didn’t have showers or anything.”
Back in those days, the Red Stars played home games at Benedictine University in Lisle.
Mautz, who worked multiple jobs in her early professional years, lived with a host family her first two seasons in the NWSL. Since then, she said improvements have been made every year.
Pay has increased, players across the league have year-round housing and the facilities have improved. She said listening to young players talk about improvements that need to be made reminds her of how far the league has come. She’s often quick to remind them of where the league used to be.
Red Stars players heard about the new ownership group the night before Monday’s announcement and expressed their support on social media.
Casey Krueger tweeted, “Welcome to the fam!!! Thank you for believing in us.”
Alyssa Naeher shared her thoughts on Twitter and Instagram, saying, “Welcome to the Red Stars! Looking forward to seeing this group take the organization to the next level!”
Assistant coach Scott Parkinson said, “We are the oldest and winningest pro women’s football team in the U.S., and today we have established the club’s future for the next generation. I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of it all.”
Still, the excitement doesn’t trump the reality that the league and its teams need to continue improving to reflect the quality of players representing it.
Sarah Spain, one of the Red Stars’ 14 new investors, said in the group’s introductory news conference it’s a balancing act between sustainability and closing the gaps that exist between men’s and women’s professional sports leagues.
“One thing to be clear on is how do you balance investing as much as you can, paying the players as much as you can, giving them the best resources you can with sustainability,” Spain said. “It’s always about balancing and getting as much to the players as we can while also investing in other parts of the business, so the next generation is still playing.”
Another point Spain made during the news conference is that the diversity within this ownership group may create an easier environment for players to share their grievances.
Morgan Gautrat said that owner Arnim Whisler always has had an open-door policy, but she could see some players being more comfortable speaking to women when advocating for themselves.
Julie Haddon, the Senior Vice President of Global Brand and Consumer Marketing at the NFL, is one particular investor who stood out to Gautrat. She immediately felt Haddon’s presence on the team’s call with the new ownership group and said the success she has had in the NFL is reason enough to be excited.
The team did not release the amount of money invested by each member of the ownership group, or the percentage they own. Whisler did say that the value they all bring is deeper than capital.
“We’ve seen deep-pocketed investors come and go in my 13 years of doing this, certainly the last 20 years we’ve seen that happen in women’s sports,” Whisler said. “What you want are people that want this team to succeed.”