[U.S. SOCCER] U.S. Soccer has taken the plunge and announced plans to operate an eight-team women's league: four former WPS teams -- Western New York Flash,
Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, and Sky Blue FC -- and four teams in Washington D.C., Kansas City, Seattle, and Portland, the latter operated by Portland Timbers owner Merritt Poulson. For more on the new league's business model and its eight teams ...
“Over the last several months we have been doing a number of things, talking with some important constituencies and stakeholders in the sport, not just in the United States but internationally,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “And I’m really very pleased with the model that we have put together.”
U.S. Soccer, the Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican soccer federation will fund the salaries of about 50 national team players. It allows the respective national teams to keep their players playing full-time and reduces the salary expenses of the eight clubs.
The new league is expected to rely less on foreign imports than the other two women's leagues did. With the salaries of U.S., Canadian and Mexican national team players paid for and without the salaries of foreign imports to take on, clubs will substantially reduce their player costs. (Most of the remaining players on their rosters are expected to earn part-time salaries.)
“What we need is a sustainable model: less hype, better performance," said Gulati. "The hype will come if we have the performance. I think immediately you’re going to see one of the best leagues in world in the sense that you’ve got three teams that have qualified for World Cups, have qualified in the last World Cup, and in the case of the U.S. obviously a multi-time medalist. I don’t think anyone who watched the [Olympic] semifinal or the fact that Canada is hosting [the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup] would argue that Canada is now one of top five teams in the world. Mexico obviously beat us in the last qualifying for the World Cup."
The yet to be named league will play 22 games in a season that will run from March-April to September-October. There are a lot unanswered questions about the league and less than five months before its launch.
"There are going to be a number of things today that we’re not prepared to finalize or confirm in terms of stadium names, or in terms of specifics of rosters," Gulati admitted. "Those things will be outlined over the days and weeks to come, but we wanted to get this news out there."
Boston. The Breakers played in WPS for three years and in the WPSL Elite last summer. After playing at Harvard Stadium for their three years in WPS, they moved to 2,500-seat Dilboy Stadium in suburban Somerville, where they sold out all seven games. Breakers managing partner Michael Stoller was one of the catalysts for the new league.
Chicago. The Red Stars played two seasons in WPS before pulling out. They played in the WPSL in 2011 and the WPSL Elite in 2012. Their WPSL home field was 3,000-seat Benedictine University Sports Complex in suburban Lisle.
Kansas City. The KC ownership group is being led by Chris Likens, his two sons Brad and Greg Likens along with Brian Budzinski. They also operated the MISL Missouri Comets. The team name will be FC Kansas City.
Portland. Portland will play a pivotal role in the league. Poulson, whoheads the Portland ownership group, gives the league a high-profile soccer owner. "The Timbers are, and always will be, steadfastly committed to growing the sport of soccer in our region at all levels," he said, "and championing a new women’s league and operating a team here in Soccer City, USA, will be an important part of that growth." The Portland area is home to the two biggest soccer manufacturers, Nike and adidas, a not unimportant consideration for a league in need of a uniform deal. Finally, the University of Portland was home to such U.S. and Canadian stars as Megan Rapinoe, Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt.
Seattle. A group led by Bill Predmore, president of the Seattle-based digital marketing agency POP, will own the Seattle team, having beaten out the Seattle Sounders Women (which featured Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Rapinoe on their team in the 2012 W-League). Amy Carnell, the former general manager of the Sounders Women, has joined the new Seattle team.
Sky Blue FC. The New Jersey club spent three seasons in WPS but sat out 2012. (It did take a team on tour of Japan.)
Washington, D.C. The group that operated the W-League's D.C. United Women will run the new Washington women's team. Like the Seattle Sounders Women, D.C. United Women had no ownership ties to the MLS club of the same name. The new Washington team will have a different name.
Western New York. The Flash won three titles in three consecutive years playing in three different leagues: W-League in 2009, WPSL in 2010 and WPSL Elite in 2011. Why not four titles in a row in four different leagues? The Flash's roots are in Buffalo, where the Sahlen family that owns the team runs a meat packing company, but it now plays in Rochester.