Ten markets in consideration for new U.S. women’s league

Jeff Kassouf October 5, 2012 19

The next incarnation of a professional women’s soccer league in the U.S. continues to move forward for 2013, with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati confirming on Friday that 10 markets are in conversations to acquire franchises for the new league.

The U.S. Soccer Federation, according to Gulati, could play a significant role in the proposed league, both operationally and financially.

Gulati twice repeated that there 11 potential ownership groups interested in 10 different markets across the country. Some of these markets – like Chicago, New Jersey and Boston – already publicly declared their desire to come back. Others still remain below the radar. There are at least two teams in each part of the country (East Coast, West Coast and Midwest).

“Where we are right now is talking with them as well as starting a process of vetting those potential investors on financial and other financial, operational, organizational management guidelines,” Gulati said.

Gulati added that there are select MLS team investors interested in the league – those are actual MLS ownership groups, separate from the likes of pre-established women’s teams sporting MLS brands, such as the Seattle Sounders Women, Vancouver Whitecaps Women and D.C. United Women. The interest is not league-wide, but the fact that even one additional, independent MLS owner could be interested in the league is encouraging.

Meanwhile, Gulati said the U.S. women will continue to be looped into the conversation during their next stint together for games against Germany on Oct. 20 and Oct. 23 (when they’ll be coached by interim coach Jill Ellis). Gulati said there is a possibility of U.S. women’s national team salaries being paid for by the Federation. Of course, that requires those players to buy into what the league puts forth and play domestically, rather than go abroad.

It also looks as if the United Soccer Leagues will be involved, which opens the door for top W-League teams to join the venture. That would be progress which should not be overlooked.

Check out the full quote sheet from U.S. Soccer.

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  • StarCityFan

    I’d be more confident if they were further along in the process. By this time in the WPS era we knew who all the teams were along with most of the starting rosters for each team.

    • Greg_G

      To be honest though, this league is being scrambled together in about a year’s time, whereas Tonya Antonucci and others worked for years to get a framework up and running and to get investors and such involved in WPS following WUSA’s collapse. These are really two different situations time-wise and financially.

      • Steglitz49

        Do you honestly really think that it will happen? Mind you, I never thought I would see the Berlin wall tumble down in my lifetime and judging by the viewing figures in Sweden last Tuesday, few believed that Zlatan could put the German NT to the sword in less than 30 minutes. Let’s hope the new league gets up and running on a sound foundation!

  • Joshua

    From the Sunil Gulati Quote Sheet: “…we are talking about the possibility for sure of a launch next year. That’s the goal, and that’s what we’re seeing if we can work toward.”
    Next year is less than three months away…

    • Steglitz49

      About 300M live in USA and the country is huge. England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark have about the same population and all the winners of the UEFA CL come from (some of) those countries. Together they have 84 teams in their top ladies divisions — not 10 or 11, but 84. This would translate to each US state having either 1 or 2 teams.
      Apart from Sweden (and possibly France) there are no great distances to travel between the team cities in Europe. Indeed, it is difficult to fly for more than 3 hours and still be within Europe. It takes 6h from coast to shining cost in USA. In short, American ladies’ football must needs be regionalized.

      Modeled on the figures from old Europe, you can run a respectable ladies’ side on a $3M/year salary budget, maybe even as little as $2M. That does not seem like an awful lot of money given the wealth of many US corporations.

      In the final analysis, ladies’ soccer around the world needs a vibrant American league. No other country can provide that unique environment. FIFA seems to have understood that and that to make this at all possible, the USAWNT had to come home with the Olympic gold. Silver or, heaven forbid, bronze would not have cut the mustard. Let¨s hope the league gets off the ground!

      • Joshua

        IMO, A professional sport league in the USA (not pro tours, like the LPGA or WTA)needs a far higher level of support both financially and fan support than currently exists for Women’s Soccer (believe me, it ain’t “ladies’” soccer in the USA, at least not in the PAC 12). Professional sports leagues and teams in the USA live and die on their TV revenues which is dependent on TV ratings which requires a sizeable and loyal audience (national and/or local) on a constant basis. In sports marketing in the USA, a pro league either becomes a dominant mainstream media entity or it dies. Like other businesses in the USA, its dominate or die. Either you are a business entity like the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL or you are not viable. As big and as rich as the USA is, there is no room for more than a few pro leagues, and even those that currently dominant the sports media market are constantly facing financial pressure, as the current NHL lockout shows.

        • Steglitz49

          Thank you, Joshua, for that insight. It is not infrequently assumed that ladies’ football is healthy outside USA but that is to be economical with the actuality. Briefly, top women’s teams are subsidized either by wealthy private individuals (eg in Japan) or rich men’s clubs (such as Arsenal and Lyon) or by local governments defraying debts.

          Attendance figures in Sweden, for example have collapsed over the past 7 years or so and in England they have never been good. Germany’s are inching up yet still below Sweden’s in its glory days in spite of having 9-10 times more citizens. In short, except possibly in Japan ladies’ football is an artificial endeavor.

          Who are women’s soccer’s natural bedfellows in USA? Is it the NFL? A game like soccer that does not require specialized equipment, like alpine skiing, golf, tennis, grid-iron, hockey or baseball, has no natural sponsor — and body paint is unlikely ever to be a big product. In short, just like Pete Rozelle defined and then expanded a market for American football, so ladies’ soccer needs to define, segment and expand its market. Maybe Japan rather than Sweden is the model for US soccer?

          • Joshua

            It appears to me, what you are saying about ladies’ soccer in Europe isn’t much diifferent from the state of the MLS in the US a decade ago, when it survived on the financial support of a few billiionaires like Philip Anschutz, Lamar Hunt, and the Kraft brothers among others.
            I really don’t know much about the state of ladies’ soccer outside the US, but I think the sport is pretty strong in the US despite two failures at a -NATIONAL- pro league. What has been forgotten is that the big dominant national pro leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) all had very modest -Regional- beginnings and that it took decades to become dominant national pro leagues. The NHL is an import from Canada and had a solid financial footing there before it’s big expansion into the US market.
            People should stop thinking in terms a coast to coast national pro league for women’s soccer and try something a little more viable in terms of long term stability and survival. A pro league with a team in Seattle and a team in Boston and a team in Orlando isn’t going to fly. Not in the immediate future, anyway. Why fail a third time?
            Something like the English FA WSL, eight teams in one region of the country (like the northeast) run by the USSF would have a better chance of long term survival than another attempt at a national pro league.

          • Steglitz49

            An interesting observation, Joshua, that in USA men’s soccer can get solid sponsorship while the ladies, who have been on top internationally for decades, can’t — yet the cost of running women’s teams are a fraction of men’s. Fascinating.
            It is a general observation that ladies’ soccer flourishes where the men’s soccer is weak, as illustrated by Japan, the two Koreas, and other pacific rim nations. The Swedish team Umeå dominated European ladies soccer, winning back-to-back CLs and narrowly lost 3 other finals. This was the team that a young Marta came to play for. It is a town of 80k inhabitants not far from the Arctic circle — and does not have a good men’s team. Vittsjö is a hamlet of 1600 people yet they average 1100 spectators at home. Again, no men’s team.

            One big difference between USA (and Canada) and the rest of the world is the well developed sports programs at college (university) and high school, with the opportunity to attend top universities of full or partial scholarships. Stanford and Berkeley (Alex Morgan’s alma mater) are 2 of the world’s academically top 5 universities, while both Duke and UNC are also excellent academically and have top ladies’ soccer programs. Indeed, Ms Horan made headlines when she chose to play for PSG, where she has been a great success, rather than taking up her full UNC scholarship. Thus, a young American lady who wants to play soccer can do so with benefit and after college go on to a new career.

            You are right. Regionalized or even local leagues is the start. As you note, New England with 14M inhabitants (greater Boston is nearly 5M) is like a European country. The tristate area even more people. Seattle (600k in the town & 3,5M in the metro), Portland (575k; 2,2M) and Vancouver (600k; 2,3M) could be a north-East region.

            Finally, the audience has to be defined, segmented and grown. In Europe it is obvious that it is not women. Worse, women do not show solidarity with their sisters. A good example is this last year when the match between Arsenal Ladies and Chelsea Ladies was played at Emirates stadium. 5000 came. Emirates holds 60 000. More than 10M live in greater London so >5M are women. If half of those were fit enough to go to the match, <3% were needed to fill the stadium. They could not be bothered to support their sisters. Loyalty is not a middle-class trait and women's soccer is the most middle-class of sports.

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  • Andy

    Where was USSF payroll support when we had Anschutz, Hendricks, Loveman and other experienced, deep pocketed guys behind WPS? Now they want to pay the USWNT to play W-League quality venues. Shakes head

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  • Darcy

    True, but all that time really didn’t do too much for the stability of the WPS. Personally, I don’t believe it has to do with the time, but the quality of their business and financial models. In other words, don’t make them suck. Also, maybe Gulati meant that the new league will be up and running next year, but just maybe not right at the beginning. Just my thoughts on the matter. Either way, it is very exciting. We can only hope it lasts.

  • mike

    Is there any progress with the new womens league, thought there was an announcement due in the beginning of November

    • Steglitz49

      Maybe the storm Sandy put paid to it?

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