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The National Women's Soccer League will welcome 48 new players into the fold as the 2023 NWSL Draft takes place on Thursday. NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman addressed the media ahead of the draft to discuss the state of the league and provide updates for 2023 season. In December, the league and the NWSL Players Association announced the results of their 14-month-long joint investigation into allegations of systemic abuse and sexual misconduct, and days before the draft the league released corrective actions and sanctions.

Berman's press conference was largely focused on helping turn the page for the players who "just want to play," and what is to come for the league in the next era.

Here are some key takeaways from the NWSL commissioner:

Step two of the NWSL ecosystem

Berman referred to the recent announcement of corrective actions as step two to the league's commitment to the NWSL ecosystem. During the NWSL Championship, the commissioner mentioned a three-pronged approach towards the joint team investigation with, "First, seeking the truth. Second, corrective action. And third, systemic reform."

Among the corrective actions, four former head coaches have been permanently banned, while Chicago Red Stars were fined $1.5 million and Portland Thorns FC $1 million. Former coaches and executives were also issued bans with timelines and conditions for a path back into the league. Since the release of the sanctions, Berman believes the third step of their approach can finally begin and will be ongoing. 

"We're really proud to be able to start a new chapter as the NWSLPA said, most appropriately in their statement, by having shared publicly with full transparency the facts of the joint investigative report, and now having addressed corrective action, which was released on Monday," Berman said. 'We worked really hard to get that behind us before we had today's new beginning and are in a position to look ahead to the 2023 season.

"Systemic reform is an ongoing commitment. It's one that we will always remember as something we have to be committed to and learn from. We will continue to work and learn and listen. We will do our best to think about it from a short, medium and long-term perspective and ... there will be implementation of changes for the 2023 season. We announced in conjunction with the joint investigative report and that work is ongoing. But ... it won't be the end of our changes. There are a variety of initiatives that are going to take months and years to develop and implement, and we really are at the forefront of this work."

Increased salary caps and fine money

Among the updates were increased salary caps and allocation money. The league has increased the salary cap by 25% for the upcoming season to $1.375 million, and we've increased the allocation money to $600,000. 

"Those are obviously more broadly within the construct of the compensation structure," said Berman. "But I'm sure as many of you begin to dig in on what's happening on a local level, our teams are doubling and tripling their investment, whether it relates to coaching staff, or facilities or other areas that we know our players need and deserve in order to perform at the highest level."

On the $2.5 million fined between Chicago and Portland, Berman explains the money will go towards systemic reform within the league for its players. Upon announcing his intent to sell the team, Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson stated he was making a $1 million dollar pledge to be utilized for establishing an NWSL player safety office. 

"Fine money is going to be used in furtherance of systemic reform and to directly benefit the lives of players," Berman elaborated. "This specific initiative that they will support will likely flow from what we announced in December as what we're committed to, but there's a variety of opportunities for us to consider with those resources. We'll be both working internally consulting with subject matter experts in the space on policy reform as well as getting input from the players directly in the player's association on the best use of that money."

NWSL brand reform

Prior to the league undergoing very public investigations, there was an announcement in July of 2021 on a potential rebrand for NWSL in honor of its decade-long existence. That was understandably placed on the back burner but could be something the league re-ups as they look ahead to the future.

"As we look towards the launch of the 2023 season, some of the things you'll be seeing and learning about [is] our new brand strategy. We built out the league office executive staff and one of our new hires, chief marketing officers, really focused on building a new brand identity for the NWSL, and all of that really couldn't have happened without the hard work that we've done over the last year."

Instead of an instant logo overhaul, the commissioner says the league will start with some of its messaging across the NWSL, one that will include brand presence with its players and across communities.

"I think the full brand work is a longer process and is underway. We're currently targeting 2024 as any potential changes to our logo or anything that we might consider for our full brand," she said. "What I think you'll see for 2023 is a new brand narrative, a new brand presence that is focused on the game that is focused on our athletes that is focused on the joy that this game brings to communities and really use it as a moment to celebrate what is being achieved through the NWSL as a representation of what's possible in women's sports."