[U.S. WOMEN'S LEAGUE] On the surface, the new U.S. women's pro league represents more of the same. Four of the eight teams played in WPS. Washington, D.C., has
had a pro women's club, dating back to Mia Hamm and the Freedom in WUSA.
But Portland and Seattle, and Kansas City for that matter, are new territory for women's pro soccer.
U.S. Soccer's move into Portland and Seattle, in particular, reflects the reality that they are soccer's hottest markets.
And the top U.S. women's stars all want to play there.
That Los Angeles and Philadelphia, which both had teams in WPS, were passed over came as something of a surprise. But they are nothing like Portland and Seattle in terms of the potential they offer to jumpstart a new league.
Seattle and Portland, paired because they'll facilitate double dates for road trips, have huge MLS followings. The Sounders averaged more than 40,000. The Timbers sold out Jed-Wen Field for the second straight year and have a long wait list.
It doesn't hurt that Portland also has the one MLS owner, the Timbers' Merritt Paulson, who has gotten behind the women's league.
Seattle and Portland will only need to capture a portion of the soccer market to outdraw its rivals. (There's nothing to indicate that the four former WPS clubs -- plus Washington -- will average more than a couple thousand fans in the downsized league.)
It doesn't hurt, either, that all the U.S. women's stars -- the handful of players with drawing power -- want to play in the Northwest.
Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux all played in the W-League for the Seattle Sounders Women in 2012.
Morgan's boyfriend, Salvador Carrasco, plays for the Sounders. Solo grew up in the Seattle area, where she was recently married to former NFL player Jerramy Stevens. Leroux grew up across the border in British Columbia.
Rapinoe had recently moved to Portland, where she starred at the University of Portland with her twin sister, Rachael.
So has forward Abby Wambach, who bought a house in Portland for $705,000 in August.
Wambach grew up in Rochester -- home of the Western New York Flash -- but loves Portland.
"Portland is one of those cities that it's always really exciting to play," she told the Oregonian on the eve of the USA-Ireland friendly in Portland. "They're going to bring the fans. They're going to bring the excitement. It's not your average game. It's a game like they play over in Europe. The fans are into it. They're beating the drums. They're chanting the whole time."
The players have all expressed some concern about what lies ahead.
The one thing for sure is U.S. Soccer is going to have a problem when it comes time to allocate players to the eight teams.