After more than three years of work on the startup, a new women's pro league moved one step closer to reality with Thursday's announcement that it will be called Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).
"Today's a day for celebration," said Tanya Antonucci, the WPS commissioner who has overseen the project since being talked into it at a gathering of Stanford soccer alumni -- she played for the Cardinal in the mid-1980s -- shortly after she left Yahoo!, where she served as general manager of its World Cup partnership with FIFA.
Without teams (until last year), coaches or general managers (in most cases) and players (still to assembled after the Olympics), it's been hard for Antonucci to sell the new league, which will begin play in April 2009, but that job got easier Thursday with the unveiling of its new logo, showcasing a silhouette of Mia Hamm, and its website, www.womensprosoccer.com.
WPS is also visible this weekend at the NSCAA Convention in Baltimore, where it will hold a Town Hall meeting on Saturday moderated by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan (Baltimore Convention Center, Room 338).
TEAMS. The league previously announced plans for franchises in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C.
Still to be determined is the home for an eighth team. WPS's preference is that team be based on the West Coast, with San Diego, San Jose, Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area among the possibilities.
Coaches have been hired in Boston (Tony DiCicco) and Washington (Jim Gabarra). Executives on board include Boston Breakers General Manager Joe Cummings, who is serving as senior consulting chief operating officer, and Chicago President and CEO Peter Wilt, who is WPS Marketing Committee Chairman. Both are former MLS executives.
WPS's Los Angeles team is owned by AEG, owner of MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy. Each team in an MLS markets is expected to have strategic partnership with the MLS club in that market, whether that's a stadium deal to share revenues or an arms-length agreement.
BUDGETS. Projected team budgets range from $1.9 million to $2.8 million, depending on the market and revenue opportunities.
The league hopes to conclude an agreement with the US Women's National Soccer Team Players' Association so national team stars (preparing for the 2008 Olympics) can begin work on promoting the league soon.
PLAYERS. No draft or allocation of players is expected to take place until the Beijing Olympics end in August.
Antonucci acknowledged that managing expectations for the new women's league hasn't been easy -- particularly in light of the spectacular collapse of the WUSA in 2003, on the eve of the Women's World Cup.
With no dominant foreign league able to sway international women's stars -- the strongest league is Sweden's Damallsvenskan -- WPS will be attractive to many foreign players.
Before re-signing with Swedish club Umea for 2008, Brazilian superstar Marta was rumored to be interested in signing with Los Angeles.
A maximum of 25 percent of the players on a WPS team can be foreigners, according to U.S. Soccer Division I women's soccer guidelines.
No decision has yet been made on minimum and maximum salaries.