Jessica Berman named as new NWSL commissioner ahead of league’s 10th season

Jessica Berman, vice president and deputy general counsel of the National Hockey League testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill on December 2, 2014.
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Jessica Berman, a former executive for the NHL and the National Lacrosse League, has been named commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Berman replaces Lisa Baird, who resigned last October amid a scandal involving allegations of sexual harassment and coercion brought against one of the league’s most prominent coaches.

Berman’s appointment was announced Wednesday, and her four-year term will start on April 20. Interim CEO Marla Messing, hired to oversee the league following Baird’s departure, will continue in her role and advise Berman during the transition until May 31.

Berman takes over the league after a turbulent 2021. Five league coaches either resigned or were dismissed. Among them was North Carolina coach Paul Riley, who was fired after The Athletic detailed claims of sexual misconduct. He denied the allegations.

2021 NWSL Timeline: Five male coaches ousted due to misconduct, abuse allegations

Baird stepped down in the fallout, and both U.S. Soccer and the NWSL opened independent investigations.

Recently, the league appears more stable. A new collective bargaining agreement was struck with the NWSL Players Association, and two expansion teams — Angel City FC and the San Diego Wave — will open their inaugural seasons and expand the league to 12 teams.

“Working on behalf of, and in partnership with, our players is my number one priority,” Berman said in a statement. “Having been involved in professional sports for many years, I know how critically important a genuine partnership with players is for us all to be successful and continue to grow.”

Berman has served as deputy commissioner and executive vice president of business affairs at the National Lacrosse League for more than two years. Before that, she was a vice president and deputy general counsel for the NHL.

The NWSL’s preseason Challenge Cup opens on March 18. The regular-season schedule for the league’s 10th season has not been announced.

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