FA hopes new Women's Super League will go professional
Last updated on .From the section Football
The Football Association hopes the new Women's Super League will turn professional in the future.
Arsenal take on Chelsea in the competition's inaugural match on Wednesday, following the FA's £3m investment in the eight-team league.
FA General secretary Alex Horne said: "Hopefully, if we set this up right and we expand the right way, the game will become professional."
The season runs until September and includes a break for the World Cup.
Minister for Sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson said: "I am extremely confident that the FA's Women's Super League will be a great success, and will not only benefit our national team but over time will improve standards at the grass roots level of the women's game both on and off the pitch"
Arsenal, Chelsea, Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster, Lincoln, Everton and Liverpool will all play each other twice, with six of the games being televised live on ESPN.
Horne added: "This is an important day for women's football in this country. We have seen a rapid growth in the national team's success and the youth teams are all doing well too so we want that to continue."
The winter league in this country has historically struggled to attract crowds of more than 100, while matches in the German and American Leagues attract attendances of about 5,000.
By scheduling the WSL during the summer, organisers hope to increase popularity and attendances. However, there is some way to go to reach the 90,000 fans who packed into a stadium in California to watch America take on China in a World Cup match.
England coach Hope Powell hopes the league will help nurture the next generation of women footballers and thinks the WSL has the potential to be as popular as the game is in the United States.
"This is a huge step for the women's game," she said. "In this country the women's game is growing and this league has attracted so much media attention.
"Hopefully it can continue to do so and I don't see why it can not be as big as the American league."
Traditionally, England's best players have been poached by their American rivals, but they have now started heading back to the UK to participate in the WSL.
England international Karen Carney and former international Katie Chapman have both left clubs in the US to join Birmingham and Arsenal, while the league also includes players from Sweden, Holland, New Zealand and Canada.
Birmingham Ladies striker Carney thinks the days where England's best players head to the US could now be over.
Carney said: "This will definitely stop England's best players from going to America and that can only help the national team.
"I came back for this league. I thought this was a good league so I'd see why people would want to stay and make this sustainable."
Chelsea Ladies host Arsenal Ladies at Tooting & Mitcham United's Imperial Fields ground on Wednesday at 1730 BST.