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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves Soccer Club's Lauren Weimer (15) plays the ball against North Alabama Soccer Coalition during a Women's Premier Soccer League match at CHI Memorial Stadium on Sunday, June 6, 2021 in East Ridge, Tenn.

Gretchen Hammel and Luke Winter recently shared their vision of helping grow the women's soccer game in Chattanooga.

Announcements like Tuesday's will certainly help in that regard.

The Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves announced Tuesday they are joining the USL W League as a founding member, starting in 2022. Some of the other teams expected to be a part of the league include clubs from Washington D.C., and from Minnesota, according to a report from The Athletic.

The new league's structure will be similar to that of the men's USL League Two, where the Chattanooga Red Wolves men's team plays. The season will kick off in May and end with the league playoffs and league final in late July.

"Being a part of the W League and being able to provide this platform for women in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas is an incredible step for the Red Wolves organization," Red Wolves general manager Sean McDaniel said in a press release. "One of our main goals since day one has been to provide both boys and girls in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas as many opportunities to progress in their soccer careers as possible, all while being able to stay in their hometown. This is another statement towards that mission."

Hammel called the W League "an opportunity to open new doors for aspiring women in Chattanooga."

"The Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves organization has seen rapid growth since inception," she said. "We are excited for the opportunity to continue that growth under the USL W franchise. As we know with our men's team, our partnership with the USL has been outstanding, and it has created one of the top nationwide paths for players pursuing a professional soccer career, and we want to do the same on the women's side. It is our mission to provide the best soccer experience for our community and the highest level of opportunity for our players. Moving forward with this partnership is a natural fit for the Red Wolves organization and we are looking forward to what's ahead."

The Lady Red Wolves currently play in the Women's Premier Soccer League, where they own a 2-1 record after a 4-0 victory over North Alabama Soccer Club Sunday evening. The new league, which is in its second stint after running from 1995-2015, saw some of the biggest names in the sport compete while also providing a platform for current top executives and coaches both in the United States and overseas to build their professional pathway in the game.

The plan is for the league to have "as many as 30 clubs" in its inaugural season, which could provide as many as 750 opportunities to play, work and coach in the women's game.

"Our goal for the W League is to use women's soccer as a force for societal good by creating a national platform to increase opportunity, gender equity and career development," USL Director of Women's Soccer Betsy Haugh said in the release.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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