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NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush steps down

In a surprise move, the National Women’s Soccer League is undergoing a major change on the eve of the season

The National Women’s Soccer League announced this afternoon that commissioner Jeff Plush is leaving the league “to pursue new opportunities.” The league says a search for his replacement is underway, though Dan Lauletta reports that Plush will stay involved in the meantime to assist with the NWSL’s transition to new leadership:

“It has been a privilege to play a role in the growth and promise of the NWSL, and especially so when I think of the talented and committed individuals I’ve worked with who will continue to dedicate themselves to the women’s game and this truly amazing league,” said Plush in the league’s statement.

Plush, whose previous work in soccer includes five years as the managing director of the Colorado Rapids, was named NWSL commissioner in 2014, succeeding the league’s first commissioner Cheryl Bailey. While Plush has received some criticism for not being visible enough, he did recently earn praise for statements on the league’s stance towards North Carolina’s HB2.

Under Plush, the NWSL also made history by being the first fully professional women’s soccer league to survive beyond three seasons. While the league enters its fifth season having just relocated the defending champion Western New York Flash to North Carolina, that move is widely seen to have put the club in stronger financial hands. The recently announced TV and media partnership deal, which includes weekly games broadcast on the Lifetime Network, also has to be seen as a milestone for the league that happened on Plush’s watch.

That said, the timing of the announcement is unexpected. The NWSL season kicks off in just over six weeks, and there had been no rumors of a change coming. Of course, “surprising” isn’t necessarily a problem; it could well be that the league simply wanted to announce the TV deal without any other notable issues publicly hanging over their heads before proceeding to a leadership change.

In any case, the NWSL appears on stable enough footing to endure just such a change despite the odd timing. If seeing USWNT stars like Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, and Carli Lloyd all sign deals in Europe is not enough to cause true problems for the league, then having to find a new commissioner on the eve of the new season is probably an issue that can be endured.