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Athletica shuts down, players are free agents

Sources have confirmed that Saint Louis Athletica has shut down, as first reported by Tom Timmermann.

Athletica players have become free agents and can sign with any team.  They are still eligible for the All-Star Game if they are on a team as of June 11.

The six games Saint Louis has played thus far will count toward the standings, but a revised schedule is expected from WPS next week.

AC Saint Louis, the men’s team that plays in the NASL and is also owned by Athletica owner Jeff Cooper, seems to have survived by taking precedent over the women’s team.  The USSF, intially intent on keeping Athletica around, reportedly gave the OK to shut down the team after Cooper expressed his desire to use his available bond money on AC Saint Louis rather than Athletica.

Athletica needed to meet pay role – in the range of $50,000 – tomorrow, just two days before the team’s scheduled game in Atlanta against the Atlanta Beat.

AC Saint Louis needs about $1 million for the rest of the year, while Athletica would have demanded approximately one-third of that.

Athletica missed its last two payrolls and created a situation in which WPS and Saint Louis could not continue forward with each other.

“It’s incredibly difficult to lose a team in mid-season like this,” WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said. “We looked at a few options as a league together with our Board and U.S. Soccer, but the operational hurdles and finances just didn’t work out. In the face of a severe funding gap in St. Louis, the local ownership group is shutting down the team at this point.”

Antonucci stressed that this is an individual problem and is not indicative of problems in other markets, which are similar statements to the one’s she made about the collapse of the LA Sol in January.

“This is a setback, but it’s one individual franchise and the loss of a team is an unfortunate reality of pro sports,” said Antonucci. “We’ll continue to have great games and an exciting season for our fans. The solid foundation that we built in 2009 is there. We have the same number of teams that we had last year during a successful first season. We’ll get through this stronger and keep moving the league and business forward.”

Here is a statement issued to the media by Cooper:

“The termination of Saint Louis Athletica is a painful outcome from the funding shortfalls and ultimate default by the investors who had the obligation to fund and operate the team on a day-to-day basis. I’ve given this matter my complete attention since returning to a more active role in the last few weeks, and numerous parties have spent a lot of hours during that time exploring what options or solutions might be available. Despite best efforts, nothing was found that would answer the immediate needs of the franchise. With more time, it is possible the answer to the financial challenges Athletica faced would have been met, but unfortunately we do not have the benefit of extra time. The investors who defaulted on a contract to fund Athletica through this season and beyond broke a promise to a league, team, players and a community, and that is what is most troubling about today’s development. I am grateful for everyone’s support of Athletica and am particularly appreciative of our players who represented the sport and our community with such class and spirit.  Despite the disappointing outcome with Saint Louis Athletica, we continue to work hard on securing the long-term future of AC St. Louis.”

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