From: Orlando Sentinel
Date of Publication: August 13, 2017
When Maddy Evans was a junior in college, there weren’t a lot of professional options for women’s soccer players.
But after finding out that the National Women’s Soccer League would begin play in 2013, Evans did whatever she could to make her dream of playing professionally come true.
While she had been hoping to become an English teacher, she changed majors to avoid having to student teach during her senior year and managed to make it to the league, getting drafted in 2013.
After just five seasons, Evans decided to walk away from soccer. She retired Saturday after the Orlando Pride’s 5-0 win over Sky Blue FC, in part, because of how little financial support is available for players who are not under contract with the U.S. women’s national team.
Pride fans and Evans’ teammates offered tributes to the midfielder throughout a blowout win and she said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection.
“My decision wasn’t made on one or two things. It was made on a bunch of different things, but I’m 26, turning 27, and I make $16,000 a year,” she said. “… I think that obviously it’s gotten better every single year. … Unfortunately, it just didn’t stay kind of caught up with where I needed to be.”
While salaries for women’s soccer players have grown in recent years, they are still much lower than that of their male counterparts. World-renowned superstar Marta makes the NWSL maximum, which is about $41,000. By comparison, the lowest-paid player on Orlando City’s roster this season made $53,000, while Kaká was paid more than $7 million.
The league’s players have not been silent about their salary concerns. The NWSL Player’s Association was formed earlier this season and some of the Pride’s players were not happy income played a role in Evans’ decision to retire.
“It’s sad to see her go but I told her that we will keep pushing this game, the women’s game, because we have to have good players make tough decisions and that’s ‘do I make enough money to make it sustainable? Can I survive off of this?’” goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris said. “It’s a dream but it needs to be a career and my words to her is, ‘I’m gonna keep fighting that for the next generation, the people who play don’t have to make the choice she made tonight.’ ”
During her playing career, Evans also spent time with the Boston Breakers and the Brisbane Roar of the W-League, but she was always impressed with the effort that the Pride made to take care of their players. The club subsidizes players’ housing and numerous team meals.
“I think that Orlando is setting the standard for what a professional team in this league needs to look like, and I’m very, very thankful for that,” she said after calling her final game Saturday special.
“This club and this organization and these fans, it’s a dream to play here. It’s incredible. Even when, say, you’re not getting the minutes that you want or whatever, you’re having a bad day, you need to look at what we have here and it’s absolutely unbelievable.”
While Evans is ready for the next chapter in her life, she has not ruled out returning to soccer someday, especially if a team is ever formed in her hometown Philadelphia. But she hopes the nation’s younger players will have the opportunity that she didn’t: to play out a full professional career.
“I’m thankful for everything that I get here, but I think that eventually, we need to grow to a point where players can make some more money,” she said. “… I want to be able look back … in 10 years that players are able to come out of college and you can be 27, 28, 29 in this league.”