Western New York Flash part of new women’s pro league
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • November 22, 2012 @ 8:00am
Establishing an enduring women’s top-tier professional soccer league in the United States is no easy task, the WUSA, WPS and WPSL-Elite have learned.
A new unnamed league is on the horizon, the president of U.S. Soccer Sunil Gulati announced in a conference call with national media today. The Western New York Flash, champions of three different professional leagues in three straight seasons, will be a part of the eight-team field in the new league.
Teams from New Jersey, Chicago, Boston, Kansas City, Washington, Chicago, Seattle and Portland—though not Los Angeles—will participate in the inaugural season which is expected to run from March/April through September/October, more of a parallel to the Major League Soccer (MLS) schedule than the previous shortened WPSL-Elite season.
Gulati’s most telling comment is listed in this New York Times “Goal” blog article by Jack Bell, as the president touches on the problem area that’s denied women’s pro leagues from sticking in the past:
“The real story is that we are trying to create an economic model that is sustainable,” Gulati said. “We are subsidizing the private sector to make their investments smaller.”
That’s easier said than done, obviously, as it took a VERY long time for MLS to gain a foothold, as it wasn’t without several teams folding and the advent of new soccer-only stadiums—as well as connecting with rabid fan-bases in Portland and Seattle—before the league was taken seriously.
The primary advantage of this new league is that U.S. Soccer, a governing body that was largely hands-off of previous women’s pro leagues, will manage the front office and pay the salaries of 24 U.S. women’s national team players to participate in the league, easing the financial burden significantly on local ownership. Remember when every single one of Marta’s teams—the WNY Flash aside—ended up folding after one year of paying her salary? Well, U.S., Canadian and Mexican internationals will be funded by their respective organizations.
There’s nothing to suggest that Aaran Lines won’t remain with the WNY Flash, though the team’s personnel should change significantly from last year’s championship run and the WPS title before that. Alex Morgan is thriving in Seattle and probably won’t leave, captain McCall Zerboni left for Los Angeles and will likely have to find another place to play—or risk missing out on the top-tier league, though Christine Sinclair is a name that could re-enter the equation. It’s all speculation now as the new league takes shape, but here are the two most encouraging signs:
1) U.S. Soccer is financially backing and directing a new women’s professional soccer league in America, something that’s unprecedented.
2) There are eight franchises involved, which will guarantee it top-flight status as a pro league and guarantee that top U.S. internationals will be a part of the project.