The structure of women’s football in England has changed drastically in recent years and its latest alteration is one of the most significant yet.
For the 2014-15 season, the FA Women’s Super League will have a second division – the FA WSL 2 – and for the first time, a promotion and relegation system will exist, allowing movement between the two leagues.
The change is part of the FA's five-year plan to develop the game, with the governing body pledging to invest a further £3.5m over the next four years.
The FA will also continue to part-fund teams in the WSL, awarding £70,000 to clubs in WSL 1 and £30,000 in WSL 2.
At the end of the FA WSL 1 season, the top two teams are automatically entered into the 2015-16 UEFA Women’s Champions League – a feat that many players have revealed as a club target.
Starting places in both divisions were decided on an applications basis. Categories included: financial and business management, commercial sustainability and marketing, facilities, players, support staff and youth development.
The Blues’ senior side were granted direct entry into the FA WSL, joining Arsenal, Chelsea, Birmingham, Liverpool, Everton, Notts County and Bristol Academy in the top flight.
City’s Head of Women’s Football Gavin Makel believes that the reformation of the league can only benefit the women’s game.
“The new expansion of the WSL obviously allows more teams to be able to compete at a higher level against top opposition on a weekly basis,” he declared.
“Through new funding and commercial opportunities it allows clubs in both WSL 1 and 2 to train more frequently, which in turn leads to players being able to develop at a higher rate.
“The benefits that has for the women’s game is quite considerable and again only shows how far the game has come over the last few years.
“For us at Manchester City Women’s Football Club, we are all really looking forward to the start of the season and I believe after the launch everyone can now see how seriously we are taking it.
...Gavin Makel, Head of Women's football at MCFC...
“For the local community it is also a huge plus and hopefully we can inspire more girls to start playing football.”
As part of the bid to improve women’s football, all clubs are also required to field a reserve side to compete in the FA WSL Development League. City Women’s Development Squad are currently sitting top of the table, after four wins in six matches.
Alongside the senior league system, there are also domestic cup competitions. The FA Women’s Cup is the female equivalent of the men’s tournament and is the most highly-regarded women’s cup competition in the English game.
As with the men’s FA Cup, clubs from the higher leagues do not enter until the later rounds, with those in the FA WSL 1 joining the competition in the fifth round proper.
In addition, there’s also the FA WSL Continental Cup, which runs across both leagues. Originally, the competition was a straight knock-out tournament but in 2012, a group stage was introduced.
With high expectations in City Women’s debut season, the Blues are aiming to compete for silverware and prove their worth in the top flight. Only time will tell whether they can reach their goals but they are eager to begin the challenge.