Chile’s Female Soccer League Navigates Path to Professionalism

Chile’s First Division Women’s Soccer Championship for 2024, unlike its male counterpart, faces uncertain beginnings and continued struggles towards complete professionalization, highlighting disparities in the sport.

The Landscape of Chilean Women’s Soccer

The Chilean First Division Women’s Soccer Championship for 2024 is approaching its kick-off without a defined schedule, mirroring a broader narrative of struggle and gradual progress in women’s soccer in Chile. This year marks the 25th edition of the league, which continues to navigate the waters of partial professionalization, with some clubs still operating under conditions closer to amateurism.

This situation in Chile reflects the broader reality of South American soccer, where only 46% of female players on the continent have a formal employment contract. A mere 24% can dedicate themselves exclusively to playing soccer. This information comes from a study conducted by FIFPro South America in collaboration with regional unions.

In 2022, the Chilean Congress passed a law mandating the professionalization of women’s soccer. However, 35 out of 36 clubs were fined for non-compliance a year later. Most clubs still need to meet various requirements, such as having half of the team under contract – a mandate that must be fully complied with by the following year.

Minimum Salaries and Incremental Progress

Despite these challenges, most female soccer players in Chile received only a minimum monthly salary of around 470,000 Chilean pesos (just over 500 dollars) during the past season. Yet, while continuing to fight for pending improvements, Chilean players prefer to focus on the positive aspects.

Iona Rothfeld, director of the National Association of Women’s Soccer Players (ANJUFF), commented on Radio Diario Universidad de Chile, “For the first time, players who have represented their clubs for more than 10 years have a contract. The club recognizes the labor relationship that already existed. This is undoubtedly something we dreamed of.”

The upcoming season will feature 13 teams, including five from regions outside Santiago, such as Everton, which returns to the top category, Deportes Antofagasta, Coquimbo Unido, Deportes Iquique, and Universidad de Concepción. The format includes a first round of all-against-all and a second divided into two groups, with the top six teams competing for semifinal spots and the rest fighting to avoid relegation.

Colo Colo, the current two-time champion and the league’s most successful team with 15 titles, appears to have a stronghold that may be difficult to break. Last season, they hired Brazilian Tatiele Silveira, the first woman to win the Brasileirao as a coach and a finalist in the Copa Libertadores. Key players, including top scorer Isidora Olave and forward Javiera Grez, are set to return, along with new signings like defender Ingrid Pardal and Uruguayan striker Guillermina Grant.

Everton, a historic Chilean women’s soccer team, aims to challenge Colo Colo’s dominance upon their return. As the first team to win back-to-back championships and reach an international final in the 2010 Libertadores, Everton has a proud legacy to uphold.

Strong Contenders: Santiago Morning and Universidad de Chile

Santiago Morning, the 2023 runners-up, and Universidad de Chile, with new coach Nilson Concha and Canadian-Chilean midfielder Melissa Bustos, are among the other teams poised to make a significant impact.

Universidad Católica, aiming to join the title race, has signed promising midfielder Arantxa Araneda, a standout performer in last season’s U-20 national team.

The league’s journey toward full professionalization continues, marked by milestones such as the use of VAR technology in last year’s final and aspirations for complete television coverage of its matches. This new campaign represents a crucial step in Chilean women’s soccer, as it seeks to solidify its professional status and gain recognition on par with its male counterpart.

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The Chilean First Division Women’s Soccer Championship for 2024 illustrates the ongoing challenges and gradual progress in women’s soccer in Chile and across South America. The players’ resilience and determination, coupled with legislative support and increasing public interest, are slowly transforming the landscape of the sport. As the new season unfolds, it will testify to the players’ skills and unwavering commitment to advancing women’s soccer in Chile and beyond.

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