Thorns and Red Stars owners to step away amid abuse investigation

Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler will both step away from their clubs amid an ongoing investigation into sexual misconduct and abuse across the National Women's Soccer League.

U.S. Soccer announced the findings of an independent investigation earlier this week that found "systemic abuse and misconduct" within the women's professional game.

Both Paulson and Whisler were cited within the report, led by former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates.

The former has been accused of enabling ex-Thorns boss Paul Riley, who has faced accusations of sexual coercion from former players, while the latter was deemed to have dismissed concerns over the abusive behaviour of former coach Rory Dames.

Now, the pair say they will withdraw from their clubs until a concurrent investigation by the league and players' union has been completed, in light of the findings.

"Yesterday's Yates report unveiling was the darkest day I have experienced, and I know the same is true for everyone else who loves our team and our league," Paulson said in a statement

"I know it was even harder and darker for those whose stories were shared publicly. I cannot apologise enough for our role in a gross systemic failure to protect player safety and the missteps we made in 2015."

Whisler followed suit, adding he would also step away from the NWSL board of governors, stating: "Our organisation is committed to rebuilding trust and respect among players and staff towards our league and club.

"I recognise that my current presence is a distraction. I do not want to take any of the attention away from the players' incredible and well-earned playoff run.

"So in the interest of the club and the players, and fans we serve, effective immediately, I will remove myself from my governance role within the NWSL board of governors and will hand over operational control of the club to our executive team in Chicago."