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Photo: Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Saturday's NWSL title game featured 138 minutes of brilliant soccer between two teams — the Washington Spirit and Chicago Red Stars — who are now searching for new head coaches.

Why it matters: The championship was a microcosm of the NWSL's ninth season, which combined superlative play on the field with institutional failures off of it.

  • Richie Burke (Spirit) was fired in September after an investigation into allegations of harassment and a toxic culture.
  • Rory Dames (Red Stars) resigned Monday amid accusations of verbal and emotional abuse by several players.

The backdrop: In April, at the behest of players, the league introduced an anti-harassment policy to help ensure a safe work environment. The move proved to be monumentally impactful and long overdue.

  • The situation came to a head in September, when a report detailed now-former North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley's history of sexual coercion, leading to postponed games and moments of silence.
  • Five coaches and a GM either resigned or were fired as a result of the new policy, which gave players a formal avenue to report abuse. Then-commissioner Lisa Baird also resigned in the wake of the scandal.

The big picture: The NWSL entering year 10 is no small feat, given its predecessors, the WUSA and WPS, lasted just three years each. Now, the league and its players hope to lay the foundation for the future.

  • 10,360 fans attended Saturday's NWSL Championship at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville. In the NBA's ninth season, the decisive game of the 1955 Finals drew 6,697 fans.
  • That was a long time ago, sure, and the stadiums were different sizes. But it's a friendly reminder of the NWSL's youth. We're still in the early innings.

The ongoing investigation into the flood of accusations is the first priority, which could bleed into the offseason and perhaps beyond.

  • The NWSLPA and NWSL are negotiating their first-ever CBA with things like increased salaries and free agency in mind.
  • The league will grow to 12 teams next season with new clubs in San Diego and Los Angeles, the latter of which has a female-led ownership model that could shape the future of women's sports.
  • Sponsorship is leveling up, with Nike recently signing the largest commercial agreement in NWSL history. Similar deals could follow as viewership continues to rise.
  • The owners of the NWSL's Kansas City team are building a $70 million stadium on the city's waterfront, which will be the world's first top-division soccer stadium constructed for a women's team.

The bottom line: The most tumultuous season in league history has set the stage for a new era.

Photo: Kelley O'Hara's championship-clinching goal. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

This story is part of a special report on the state of U.S. women's soccer. It appeared first in Axios Sports. (Sign up here.)

Go deeper:

  1. Next few months could be most important in U.S. women's soccer history
  2. USWNT friendlies roster provides look into the team's future
  3. More Americans can name USWNT player than USMNT player
  4. Cindy Parlow Cone: “We’re on the same side” as USWNT on equal pay
  5. USWNT and USMNT fighting for equal pay in CBA negotiations
  6. Player empowerment is key to the future of U.S. women's pro soccer

Go deeper

Dec 3, 2021 - Sports

MLB players troll league by removing Twitter profile photos

Twitter: @JeffPassan

When MLB locked out the players, free agency wasn't the only thing that ground to a halt.

What's happening: Without a CBA, the league can't legally use players' likenesses in any official capacity, meaning MLB.com has been scrubbed of all stories and images of active players.

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.

Roger Stone won't cooperate with Jan. 6 panel

Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone speaking in front of the Supreme Court on Jan. 5 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone won't cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and will invoke the Fifth Amendment right not to testify, his attorney said Tuesday evening.

Why it matters: The announcement, first reported by ABC News, came hours after former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he wouldn't cooperate with the probe.