The state of Women’s Professional Soccer

In several previous posts I discussed the potential disaster of Major League Soccer (MLS) going on strike.  Luckily, a strike was averted as the players and owners came to an agreement just before the deadline, and the season has begun play (I’m watching the Chicago Fire play the San Jose Earthquake as I write this).

While Major League Soccer has done fairly well in more recent years, women’s professional soccer has had a much harder time.  The first professional soccer league for women in North America (called the WUSA) failed after a few seasons, despite the women’s team having a strong following with certain demographics and regions in North America.  After that league folded, they were replaced with the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league.  All is not well with the WPS.  The Los Angeles Sol, the team with the best record in last year’s inaugural season, and the runner up in the league final was actually suspended from playing in the league’s second season.  The team was co-managed by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), who have managed several MLS teams, the Staples Center, and a number of other sport franchises and facilities around the world, and Blue Star LLC.  AEG had already notified the WPS they would only be involved with the Sol in their first season, Blue Star was unable to come up with financial backing to operate the Sol for this season, and thus the league suspended the team.

On Scott French’s blog on ESPN.com, he notes this situation as well as the state of the union teleconference which was delivered by the league commissioner this past week.  In this phone call, it was noted that the team had several potential future backers, and that they may re-emerge in the next season.  Additionally, there was talk of league expansion in this phone call, with the hope to add two teams (to make a total of ten) in 2011, and an additional two in 2012.  Markets which have been named include the cities of: San Diego, Denver, Dallas, Seattle and Vancouver.

I find this talk to be rather premature and quite unrealistic.  The Sol were unable to land financial backing, despite being in the Los Angeles media market.  If the team in one of the world’s largest media markets is having financial trouble to the point where they are suspended by a league, I question the ability of smaller markets to have enough financial backing to support a team in the WPS.  I’ll be watching the WPS to see how well the league does in future years.

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