By Marilyn Childress
With the close of the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, the business of women's soccer needs to get aggressive. The success of women's soccer from youth and college to the women's national team and the pros depends on the support of many factions in the game. How these groups use the opportunity from the WWC exposure can set the stage for the new women's pro league and women's soccer in general.
The WWC tournament has the general public and the general media talking about players, coaches, and even about issues of women's soccer. The goalkeeper controversy even made ESPN's "Sports Reporters." The owners in the new league can use this platform to help promote the new, as yet unnamed, women's pro league.
One approach would be for the new league to partner with U.S. Soccer on a strategy to win back the World Cup trophy. Many glaring problems surfaced for the U.S. team in this World Cup. The new league could be one of the solutions. U.S. Soccer should show full support for the league, including providing financial support. Just voting to allow the league to be in existence is not enough.
There are updates on the new league, so let me catch you up with those:
It was announced on Sept. 4 that it would launch in the spring of 2009. Seven owners and cities are confirmed, including Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, St. Louis, New Jersey/New York and Dallas. A plan for an 18-month marketing and branding campaign leading up to the kick-off and a commercial partnership with Soccer United Marketing (SUM) is included. SUM already handles marketing and sponsor sales of MLS, U.S. Soccer and other high-profile soccer properties. Tonya Antonucci, who has led the two-year initiative to create the new league, was named Commissioner. The owners are also saying they will continue forging relationships with the United Soccer League's W-League and Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL.) It seems to be a good beginning.
The new league has lots of plans for next year, but it also has an opportunity right now to capitalize on the disappointing results of the WWC. It should position itself as the key for the future success of the U.S. Women's National Team.
The rest of the world is catching up with the skill level of the U.S. women. There are numerous arguments as to why the other countries have started to match the U.S. on the field: how they develop players, quality of coaching, or problems with the entire system of U.S. Soccer's national team program. But how much better would the U.S. women's team have been if the WUSA was still playing?
Having a successful professional league is paramount for keeping the U.S. on top. It's true for the men's side and it's true for the women, too. The players need to have ongoing competitive games. Those 50 friendly games leading up to this year's WWC simply did not sufficiently prepare the U.S. team.
The U.S. Women's National Team is doing a series of exhibition games this month with Mexico. As of this writing, there has been no mention of the new league being involved. These games could have been a wonderful opportunity to start a campaign for national support of the league. Girls' soccer is in full steam. The time is now to begin building equity with these girls so they all know the importance of their support of the league. These girls have just watched the best players in the world; you want them to know with the new league they will be able to watch them every season and not just every four years.
I know the Olympics are next year, but the league needs to use the publicity generated now. Next year there will be another opportunity, but the seeds of success of the league could already be in place.
The owners of the teams in the new league must begin now to cultivate relationships with all those who support women's soccer and even more important those who support women's sports.
Marilyn Childress, owner of Childress Enterprise, Inc. a manufacturing and consulting business, is a women's soccer pioneer having led the movement to include women's soccer in the Olympics. She was also instrumental in developing the U.S. Soccer Women's Professional Standards. She owns Women's Intersport Network, a consulting advocate for women's sports. She maybe contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.