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Reign FC: Leading the charge in women’s soccer

TACOMA -- For almost 60 years, fans have flocked to Cheney Stadium to take in America's past time. But this year there is more to cheer for than just baseball.

The historic venue is now home to the Reign FC, one of the nine clubs in the National Women's Soccer League.

"Walking by all the trumpets with the little girls holding the trumpets and the fireworks and stuff I'm like 'dang we made it!'" said Reign FC player Beverly Yanez.

The fanfare in Tacoma is a welcome sight for the players. Yanez and Lauren Barnes were left without a team when the previous league folded in 2012.

"At the time I was pretty much at an all-time low," said Barnes.

"I actually will never forget that feeling. It's something that I still carry with me today," said Yanez. "I was devastated."

But this time things are different, the league has already outlasted its two predecessors combined and the Reign FC is leading the charge.

"We actually have an opportunity -- it's feasible for the Reign FC to be the best women's soccer team in the world," said Reign FC Associate General Manager Brynn Baker. "Seeing women and women athletes in these positions and getting airtime I think is super important in just how women are perceived throughout the world."

Baker uses her role as a vessel for the mission of the organization.

“Our players are not playing soccer because they are making a million dollars and because they can play for ten years and retire and live an incredibly lavish life, they are playing soccer in this league because they are paving the way for people to come behind them,” she said.

Like any young league, the NWSL has had to find ways to survive and grow. Now in its seventh season, it's all about sustainability. US Soccer pays the salaries of National Team players like Megan Rapinoe. The clubs provide housing and transportation for their players which allows the $16,000 minimum salary to stretch as far as it can.

"It's really challenging and I think like everyday I go to sleep and I'm like 'man, these players deserve better,'" said Baker.

The majority of players, like Barnes, have coaching businesses on the side.

“We want to be involved, we want to be here, we want to play, we want to show other kids what it's like to be at this level, said Yanez. "I definitely feel we're pioneers for the women's game.”

“As a club that’s what we work towards, so yeah I feel a ton of responsibility to do my part to make that happen -- cause its not like it's just having the best soccer players on the field, it's having the best front office and the best marketing team and the best promotions," said Baker. "All of that goes into being the best soccer team on the planet which is what we want to be.”

That goal is what led the team to make some tough decisions, including the move from Seattle to Tacoma.

“Our stadium in Seattle and the fan experience, what we were able to offer there wasn’t good enough for our players and it wasn’t good enough for our fans," she said. "And we made a really difficult choice to move the team to Tacoma because of the increase experience we can provide fans and the better experience we can provide players. I think that’s a great example of our front office making difficult choices to continue to improve what our team can be.”

The players now have access to a better field and quality training facilities, but most importantly it gives them a more stable platform to make the impact they all strive for.

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