West Ham United will play top division football from next season after their application to join the new look Women’s Super League was successful, but Sunderland Ladies do not even make the top two divisions.

As expected, Manchester United have been awarded a licence for the newly formed Women’s Championship, the league’s second tier of 12 teams, and will now look to build a team capable of promotion, with England assistant coach Casey Stoney expected to take on the role of Head Coach.

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United will be joined by new names that include Lewes FC, Leicester City and Sheffield United in the Championship, while Charlton Athletic, who won the FA Women’s Premier League play-off against Blackburn on Sunday, take their place in tier two.

West Ham, who finished seventh in this season’s Premier League South (third tier), will join ten other teams, which includes Brighton & Hove Albion, who finished runners-up in FA WSL 2 this season. The other nine clubs  all played in WSL 1 last season.

The odd number of teams (eleven) will, like the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in America, mean that each week, one club will sit out a round of fixtures.

Watford and Oxford are two more sides that do not make the top two divisions having been in Women’s Super League 2 since its formation. Many expected Southampton to make one of the top divisions, while there is no room for Crystal Palace Derby County or Coventry, who are all believed to have bid for tier 2.

Lewes, who announced last year that they were entering into an equal pay deal for their men’s and women’s side, will be a popular addition to the Women’s Championship because of their stance on equality. Leicester City will be the sole representative from the East Midlands area. Despite their financial difficulties, Millwall Lionesses make the cut.

West Ham, who are rumoured to want Matt Beard as their Head Coach in the top division, and Manchester United, will grab the headlines, but this is a sad day for supporters of Sunderland in particular.

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The club are responsible for producing some of England’s current squad including captain Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Jordan Nobbs, and have finished as high as fourth in the top division since winning promotion from Women’s Super League 2.

They moved to a part-time model at the start of last season and moved grounds to play their home games in South Shields. The club has much history in the women’s game and has a reputation in the north east for discovering local talent, so to not be in the top two divisions, is a blow.

The new look FA Women’s Super League will have the following teams:

  • Arsenal
  • Birmingham City Ladies
  • Brighton & Hove Albion Women
  • Bristol City Women
  • Chelsea FC Women
  • Everton Ladies FC
  • Liverpool Ladies FC
  • Manchester City Women
  • Reading FC Women
  • Yeovil Town Ladies
  • West Ham United Ladies

The newly formed Women’s Championship will welcome the following teams:

  • Aston Villa Ladies FC
  • Doncaster Rovers Belles
  • Durham Women FC
  • London Bees
  • Millwall Lionesses
  • Sheffield FC Ladies
  • Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
  • Charlton Athletic Women
  • Leicester City Women
  • Lewes FC Women
  • Manchester United Women
  • Sheffield United Ladies

As part of the application processes, all clubs are required to sign a licence with The FA and the offers from The FA Women’s Football Board remain conditional until it is received. Decisions are subject to appeal, to be made within 14 days of clubs receiving the decision in writing.

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Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s Head of Women’s Football said: “Today’s announcement is the result of two years of planning and a milestone within our delivery of The Gameplan for Growth strategy. The revised competition structure will positively impact on the delivery of the women’s game across all levels, both on and off the pitch.

“Such is the strength of women’s football in this country, there have been some difficult decisions to make but they’ve been made with the sport’s best interests at heart.  This is a hugely exciting time for the game and I am hopeful that we will look back upon this as one of the most significant decisions made in its history.”

The 2018/19 season begins on the weekend of the 18 & 19 August with the opening round of group fixtures of The Continental League Cup. The FA Women’s Super League and The FA Women’s Championship league fixtures commence on the weekend of the 8 & 9 September.