Manchester United have applied to have a professional women’s team.
The club have been heavily criticised for not having an adult women’s side, with England coach Phil Neville saying in January he would discuss the matter with his former club.
Should their application be successful, United would be based at the Cliff training ground in Salford.It is anticipated they would play as a full-time team in the second tier during the 2018-19 season.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said the women’s side “must be built in the same image and with the same principles as the men’s first team”.
The leagues will be rebranded and restructured from next season, with WSL1 becoming the Women’s Super League, while WSL2 will be called the Women’s Championship.
The club have resisted calls to reinstate the women’s team that they scrapped in 2005, despite Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all having thriving teams within the WSL system.
However, they have continued to run a women’s section at junior age groups, where they have worked with local schools and community groups through the Manchester United Foundation.
After partnering with the South Manchester Girls’ Football League in 2016, United say they have already seen a 41% rise in participation levels.
In 2016, United’s Under-16 team reached the FA Youth Cup final for the first time and say they have 15 players involved in the international set-up – 12 from England and three with Scotland.
It is anticipated trials for the new team will be held in June.
Woodward added: “The FA has provided excellent support and we believe that launching a team would give many more of our graduates from the Regional Talent Club the chance to establish themselves as first team players.”
Due to next season’s restructure, existing tier one and tier-two clubs had to re-apply for their 2018-19 licences earlier this term.
Then affiliated girls and women’s clubs from outside the existing WSL system were then invited to apply for the remaining spaces.
The Football Association – which runs the women’s leagues in England – received 15 applications to join either of the top two tiers by 9 March’s deadline.
Up to four teams could now join the top division, the WSL, and up to five may enter tier two, the new Women’s Championship.
Crystal Palace and Sheffield United were among the teams to bid to join the Women’s Championship.
The successful applicants will not be named by the FA until the end of May.