[MY VIEW] New Women's Professional Soccer CEO Jennifer O'Sullivan reiterated the women's pro league's commitment to be
the best women's league in the world and her hope that the league will again receive the sanctioning it needs from U.S. Soccer to operate in 2012.
WPS has again applied for a waiver to continue with its current field of five teams -- Atlanta, Boston, Blue Sky FC out of New Jersey, Philadelphia, Western New York -- though U.S. Soccer has given the league until Dec. 5 to find a sixth team.
There has been interest from several markets for 2012 or 2013 -- the area most often mentioned for 2012 being Connecticut -- but that begs some more fundamental questions ...
What is the bottom-line commitment level of the five remaining owners? WPS has experienced three turbulent seasons and lost more clubs -- six -- than it has left.
How much longer will its current owners go on? As it is, the Boston Breakers began the search for a new majority investor in August, and no successor has been named.
Sure, MLS survived with a handful of owners in its early years, but they all had deep ties to professional sports. And as soon as the Hunt Sports Group and AEG entered the stadium business, MLS roots took hold.
WPS has nothing like that bench of investors.
Would U.S. Soccer really bury WPS? There's talk of the possibility of playing as a non-sanctioned league -- without U.S. Soccer and therefore FIFA approval -- but as a practical matter it'll never happen.
So will the U.S. board of directors be known as the body that killed women's pro soccer in this country? Or is a continued waiver from the minimum eight teams needed for a Division I women's pro team just postponing the inevitable.
(A Division I league wouldn't come back any time soon if WPS folds, though both the W-League and WPSL are actively considering adding a structure, at a Division II level for women, greater than their current amateur programs offer.)
What will 2012 bring? Closer to end of the 2011 WPS season? Or more like the beginning of season? To be sure, WPS rode the coattails of the 2011 Women's World Cup excitement until the end of the season and attendances at recent U.S. women's matches have been encouraging.
Indeed, the last two months of the 2011 season were the best run WPS enjoyed in its three years. And they erased -- temporarily -- the memory of the horrendous start to the 2011 campaign with the magicJack chaos and crowds slipping below 1,000 at some venues.
The fear, of course, is that when the excitement wears off, as it will inevitably, WPS will return to the unsustainable levels of early 2011.
History is not on WPS's side.
The 1999 Women's World Cup sparked a women's soccer frenzy far greater than what we experienced in 2011. At post-USA '99 matches, stadiums boasted large crowds of fans ready to see Mia Hamm and the rest of their U.S. idols, but by the next year the national team crowds slumped. And by 2001 and the launch of WUSA, the fuss was largely over.
Millions more were thrown at WUSA and it collapsed after three seasons.