[WOMEN'S PRO SOCCER] U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said the federation is starting a process to vet potential
ownership groups -- 11 groups representing 10 cities have been identified -- for a new women’s professional league in 2013. He added that U.S. Soccer might play a much more active role in the
new league. Key would be its funding of all or part of national team player salaries. Their participation in the league is essential for it to have any chance of success.
"What we’re looking at is a different sort of participation than we’ve had in the past, which has primarily been as a sanctioning, regulatory body," said Gulati in remarks to the media on Friday. "There is every possibility that we would have a more active role in the management and funding of this league. What form that takes is still being discussed but a big part of our participation would be that the national team players would play in this league and perhaps be funded directly by U.S. Soccer."
Gulati added that the overall support U.S. Soccer provides the national team program is beyond anything that happens around the world "so we’re seeing if we can reshape some of that and add to that in the form of a league. I think we’ll have a pretty good handle on that in the next few weeks.” Operational support would come from the USL, which currently operates the W-League, among other leagues.
-- Gulati said the markets "were spread across the country. There are some former professional [WPS] teams that are obviously part of that group, some current MLS teams investor-operators are part of that group and we expect to have that process pretty much completed by the end of October as well."
MLS clubs, who have up until now been largely reluctant to get involved in a women's league, were examining the new model on a team-by-team basis. Teams will need MLS approval to make the jump.
"How do I feel about it? It’s up to the individual MLS teams to do this," said Gulati. "In some places it works much better than others and for some owners it works much better than owners to seriously consider the possibility.”
-- Gulati said national team players will be updated on U.S. Soccer's participation in the project later in October when the USA faces Germany in a two-game series. Some players must weigh offers from European clubs against what they'd be offered in a new league. U.S. Soccer's financial backing would make the decision to stay at home much easier.
Former UCLA and U.S. U-20 head coach Jill Ellis, U.S. Soccer's girls development director, will coach the USA against Germany on an interim basis.
“Jill essentially took herself out of the running to be the permanent coach a month or so ago when we started this process," said Gulati. "She is coaching these games and the team on an interim basis because she’s been an assistant coach, is a terrific part of our staff and is on a full-time contract with U.S. Soccer. But she took herself out of the process for reasons that I think she’s mentioned previously.”