In illustrating the explosive growth of women's soccer, Missy Price points to Barcelona in late March, when a record 91,553 fans packed Camp Nou to watch its beloved women's side defeated Real Madrid 5-2 in the second leg of a Champions League match.
"That blew our minds, as we were watching it," Price says. "It was a really powerful statement that women's soccer is not only here, but it's here to stay, and it's changed."
Price is thankful for the progress.
A goalkeeper, Price played at the University of Maryland from 1993 to 1997, leading the Terrapins to two NCAA quarterfinal appearances. But there was no domestic pathway to the pros, and the overseas options were limited.
"I didn't have an opportunity to play professionally," she says. "I was right on the edge of when women's professional soccer first launched in the U.S."
That's why — after serving as a head coach at Wellesley College and the University of Nevada from 2010 to 2021 — Price is so excited about her new role as the Vice President of Women's Soccer for the United Soccer League. In her role, Price will lead on-field initiatives for the USL's youth-to-pro women's pathway and support USL Super League and W League Clubs in structuring their technical departments.
After shining in college, female soccer players in the U.S. don't have the same breadth of pro options as men in the United States. Currently, it's NWSL or bust.
For men, there's MLS, but there's also the USL Championship, which debuted in 2011. There's now even a third division, including USL League One.
"The USL has a strong presence in men's soccer," Price says. "They have multiple teams and properties, strong fan bases in a lot of markets. Entering into the world of women's soccer, we're saying very simply, 'If it can be done for the men, why can't it be done for the women?'"
Progress and more to do
In 1972, Title IX banned sex discrimination in federally funded education programs, opening doors for girls and women in admission, academic majors, teaching positions, vocational programs, and sports. That year, about 300,000 women and girls played college and high school sports in the United States, with female athletes only netting 2 percent of college athletic budgets. By 2012, the number of girls participating in high school sports nationwide had risen to more than 3 million. In addition, more than 190,000 women competed in intercollegiate sports, six times as many as in 1972.
Despite limited playing opportunities, Price says Title IX was an integral part of her earning jobs as a coach. Still, Price insists, the work isn't done.
"Clearly, there's progress," she says. "Depending on who you ask, they would probably tell you that we have a long way to go."
And the USL is confident they've got the right leader to help make a difference in the women's game.
"Dr. Missy Price is an outstanding soccer executive," USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. "Like many of us here at the USL, she is a proven leader who has played and coached the game at a high level."
On a personal level, though, Price also aspires to impact her children. She's got a five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son.
"For me, if I look into the future, I would like to think that they have the same opportunity to pursue whatever they want to pursue that gender or their perceived gender in society doesn't limit them," Price says. "And I think that's where Title IX can keep pushing the envelope for girls and women, but also for my son to see that girls and women can do these things, too. And that's what I think is really important."