The National Women's Soccer League has finally announced that Lisa Baird will become the Commissioner of the league effective March 10th. The search took place over a months-long process after President Amanda Duffy announced that she would be stepping down from her leadership role to take a job with the Orlando Pride. Baird was most recently working for New York Public Radio as the Chief Marketing Officer, and before that she held the same role with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Her background in marketing suggests that the league ownership was looking for a candidate with experience promoting products and bringing new capital into the organization.
The NWSL had been locked into a three-year long dance with Duffy working as the acting head of the league. Former commissioner Jeff Plush resigned from his position on March 3rd, 2017, and Duffy stepped into the leadership role with the league. Whether for personal reasons or otherwise, Duffy never moved into the commissioner role. Instead she worked for the first two years as Director of Operations and then as President. The change in title did not seem to change her role with the league, and fans were getting restless with the lack of progress towards a true leader of the league.
The move to Baird comes just weeks after the league announced that they had secured their first broadcast television deal with CBS. Three league games will be broadcast on the main CBS broadcast, 14 games will be broadcast on the CBS Sports channel, and the rest of the games will be broadcast on a paid CBS service. The games are also expected to be streamed on Twitch, and the package is not anticipated to impact the local broadcast agreements that teams have signed with local TV stations. This information is subject to change as more details are released.
The big question now is whether the league is prepared to capitalize on the momentum gained following the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup victory. Most teams registered massive increases in attendance during 2019, but the league was still unable to procure an expansion squad for 2020. Proof Louisville FC is already lined up to become the 10th league team in 2021, but Baird will certainly be tasked with bringing the league to 12 teams sooner than later.