By Tonya Antonucci
What a busy time it has been for us the past six months at the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league office: new faces in the front office, teams drafting their first players for the 2009 season, the announcement of our national television partner - Fox Soccer Channel - and the addition of the San Francisco Bay Area as the league's seventh franchise for 2009.
But as the league operations come into full swing and with the season less than six months away, we can't and won't lose sight of one of our most important core constituents: America's youth soccer players and their loyal and supportive families.
The WUSA did an incredible job playing to the aspirations and dreams of America's younger fans. WUSA gave us a league with role models like Mia, Brandi and Julie, for our kids to emulate on and off the field. And it gave millions of girls and young women the opportunity to dream that they, too, could one day play professional soccer in the United States.
But WPS hopes to take our league beyond aspirations - to go one step further in the evolution of women's professional sports. By putting together the world's best women's soccer league, we plan to develop a product on the field that soccer players, sports fans and casual viewers alike will want to follow as exciting competition. We can do this by drawing from America's pool of elite players, bringing in international players and engaging fans in the U.S. across the age spectrum.
We hope to create an exciting game day atmosphere that provides affordable soccer fan and soccer-family-fun: from the season ticket prices -- which will be lower than all the other major sports - to the accessibility of our stadiums and players.
The youth soccer community is an absolute priority for us. Since officially launching the league late last year, we've already reached out to all the major youth soccer organizations to discuss and create unique partnerships and promotional tie-ins to our games, sponsors and WPS players. In fact, our League Relationships Manager responsible for grassroots outreach was the very first hire I made at the league level. Aaron Burch, who holds that position, was a Senior District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America in the Bay Area, and knows a thing or two about working with youth groups.
Earlier this summer, we brought Abby Wambach to the U.S. Youth Soccer Region 1 tournament; we met with leaders of AYSO at their annual meeting in San Francisco, and we'll be present as the NSCAA Convention for two years running come this January.
WPS clubs will be putting youth soccer game-day experiences and ticket packages together for youth soccer leagues and we'll have special WPS Game Days to recognize and appreciate all that the various youth leagues across the country have done to promote the sport, healthy living and personal growth for our youth.
For young players out there, this is the time to get engaged in WPS. Sign up at the WPS Fan Corner, fancorner.womensprosoccer.com , to follow all the news around the league and your favorite players; have your family put in a season-ticket deposit with your local WPS team, while the best seats are still available; or just go out and kick a ball around with the thoughts that one day you could be on the field playing against the likes of Marta at the Home Depot Center.
WPS is determined to bring its fans the best action, the world's best talent, and the best environment for women's professional soccer on the planet. Now we need the country's young fans to come along for the ride. If it's anything like the past six months, then we are in for quite an exciting time!
(Tonya Antonucciis the Commissioner of the Women's Professional Soccer , which kicks off next spring. Soccer America will be featuring a series of WPS executives, coaches and team officials as they countdown to kickoff in April 2009 with regular columns as part of SA's Youth Soccer Insider.)