The NWSL and US Soccer "failed to put in place basic measures for player safety" and abuse in the NWSL was "systemic", an investigation has found ©Getty Images

US Soccer insists it is putting into place key recommendations to safeguard players in the women's professional game after an independent investigation found "verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct... had become systemic" in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL).

It has also created a Participant Safety Taskforce, of which at least a third of members will be athlete representatives, to convene leaders in football at all levels across the country - from professional leagues to youth and grassroots clubs - to coordinate efforts to implement the recommendations.

The Participant Safety Taskforce will be led by new US Soccer chief executive JT Batson and the group will release more information about its mission, membership and a timeline for progress within the next 30 days.

The national governing body has released the full details of the investigation into the NWSL by the former United States acting attorney general Sally Q Yates, which was established after Paul Riley was sacked as head coach of the North Carolina Courage and suspended by US Soccer following a report alleging sexual coercion - which Riley denies - in The Athletic.

The NWSL was plunged into crisis in the wake of allegations, with a round of matches called off and commissioner Lisa Baird forced to resign.

The report found the NWSL and US Soccer "failed to put in place basic measures for player safety", abuse in the NWSL was "systemic" and that reports of misconduct were not adequately addressed. 

US Soccer is now committed to the immediate introduction of three new safeguarding measures, among them a new Office of Participant Safety to be established to oversee US Soccer's conduct policies and reporting mechanisms.

Soccer records from the US Center for SafeSport's disciplinary database will be published to publicly identify individuals who have been disciplined, suspended or banned, and a uniform minimum standard will be mandated for background checks for all US Soccer members at every level of the game.

In addition to these immediate steps, US Soccer has created a new group from the Board of Directors to address the report's recommendations going forward and present an action plan by the end of January.

The committee will be chaired by former US women's national team player Danielle Slaton alongside vice-chair Mike Cullina, the US Club Soccer chief executive, and will consist of Lori Lindsey, Richard Groff, Pete Zopfi and Lisa Carnoy.

Cindy Parlow Cone, the US Soccer President and a former women's national team member, said: "This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling.

"The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace.

"As the national governing body for our sport, US Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players - at all levels - have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete.

"We are taking the immediate action that we can today and will convene leaders in soccer at all levels across the country to collaborate on the recommendations so we can create meaningful, long-lasting change throughout the soccer ecosystem."

Sally Yates led the team investigating abuse within the NWSL ©Getty Images
Sally Yates led the team investigating abuse within the NWSL ©Getty Images

US Soccer retained Yates, who is now with the King & Spalding LLP firm, in October 2021 to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of abuse and misconduct "to gain a full understanding of the factors that allowed the abusive behaviour and sexual misconduct to occur and to identify meaningful recommendations that will help prevent similar abuse and misconduct from taking place in the future".

After receiving a report from King & Spalding upon the investigation's conclusion, the US Soccer Board of Directors voted to release the report in full, after steps were taken to preserve victim privacy and confidentiality.

"I am grateful to Sally Yates and her team for their dedicated work, and to everyone who participated openly and honestly in the investigation, especially the players who courageously came forward publicly to share their experiences and set in motion the process of identifying the facts and driving necessary and immediate change," added Parlow Cone.

"US Soccer and the entire soccer community have to do better, and I have faith that we can use this report and its recommendations as a critical turning point for every organisation tasked with ensuring player safety.

"We have significant work to do, and we’re committed to doing that work and leading change across the entire soccer community."

The full report can be viewed here.