November 21, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
ONE MORE TIME
US Soccer will back new women's league
U.S. Soccer has announced the formation of a new, as-yet unnamed, women's professional soccer league that will begin play in 2013.
|A new women’s professional league will begin play in 2013, with the salaries of national team players like Lauren Cheney underwritten by US Soccer.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Eight teams were selected for this inaugural season with teams in Chicago (Red Stars), Boston (Breakers), Western New York (Flash), Washington, DC (DC United Women), New Jersey (Sky Blue FC), Portland Timbers, Seattle and FC Kansas City.
"We had 11 groups that we had been looking at and vetting and finally made a decision to start with eight teams," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.
The new league will be partly funded by U.S. Soccer, which will operate the league's front office and underwrite the salary of up to 24 players from the U.S. Women's National Team, an average of three per team. The Canadian Soccer Association and the Mexican Soccer Federation will fund the salaries of players in the league as well, with Canada paying for 16 players, and Mexico an unnamed number, although it could be as many as 12.
"From our perspective, the most important thing is to have a sustainable model, and clearly if one wants to view it as those three federations being the government, we are subsidizing the private sector here to try to make this sustainable, to try to make the investments necessary by the private sector smaller."
The participation of the other federations is a way of keeping their players playing on one calendar system and on the same continent.
"We are hosting the next Women's World Cup in 2015 in six of our cities coast to coast. For us it is a very exciting time for women's football and for football in general and I think it is a great opportunity to leverage that event into have our players play in a professional environment with this league,” said Victor Montagliani, President of the Canadian Soccer Association
Gulati said players from other parts of the world would play in the league, though it might not be of the same caliber as has been seen in the past.
"Immediately you are going to see one of the best leagues in the world," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "What we need is a sustainable mode. Less hype, better performance. The hype will come if we have the performance."
Other details of the league remain sketchy. Salary budgets and guidelines have not been finalized, and neither have team playing facilities, although Michael Stoller, the owner of the Boston Breakers, did say the team will not be playing at 32,000 seat Harvard Stadium, and the teams would not be playing in facilities such as Toyota Park.
"Our player costs will be a fraction of what they were," said Stoller, who also indicated he expected to have a smaller paid staff than teams in the past, utilizing interns to perform more administrative functions.
Gulati said other matters of importance to the league such as sponsors and national television are in the works.
"We have a handshake agreement with one national sponsor and have had some preliminary discussions with a TV partner," said Gulati.
Gulati would not reveal what other three markets had expressed interest, although Los Angeles was definitely one.
"There was interest from Los Angeles and I can see a potential team in Los Angeles in the future," said Gulati.
“We wanted an even number of teams to start, for geography and other reasons, we went with eight.
"I can see some of the teams and groups being a part of this in the future. It was our decision to go with eight and what would be the best eight to start."
The group in Los Angeles was disappointed at not being selected.
"Without question we are frustrated and disappointed with US Soccer’s decision to leave us out," said Charlie Naimo, Vice President of the W-League's Pali Blues. "It makes no sense in the long run. When have we ever been able to field three West Coast teams in a professional women’s league in its inaugural season? Never… expansion would have been much easier in the future giving us our own conference. Coming from USL Pro and knowing the costs of an extra trip to California in a season is not a make or break cost to a ‘professional’ team. The group we represented had a turnkey operation, great stadium, rich history of on-field success and would have been in the top half of the league financially. That said, it is over and that is all we will say. I want to wish all the great owners the best of luck and success with their new venture. There are some great people/ friends running these teams and all the focus should be on them right now.
“Regarding expansion, who knows… but I can tell you the lead investor in this venture most likely will not be interested again. On a personal level, I think I have put enough time in trying to make these things work.”
At least one Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers, will operate a club in the new league.
“We are pleased to partner with U.S. Soccer to bring a new women’s professional team to Portland and to do our part to make a top-flight women’s league possible in our country," said Timbers owner/President Merritt Paulson. "The Timbers are, and always will be, steadfastly committed to growing the sport of soccer in our region at all levels, and championing a new women’s league and operating a team here in Soccer City, USA, will be an important part of that growth."
Gulati said MLS, through Soccer United Marketing, might also have a role in the new league.