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Established LA ownership excluded for geography

The Pali Blues (Sarah Huffman in black jersey) and LA Strikers (Christina Murillo in white on right) could have joined forces in a new women's professional soccer league. (Photo: Debby von Winckelmann)

Los Angeles soccer fans got some news on Monday that they probably hoped would wait for another year when David Beckham announced the Dec. 1 MLS Cup would be his last game with the LA Galaxy.

Light years down the news cycle is another piece of soccer Los Angeles fans will miss out on: a women’s professional team (at least in 2013) in the yet-to-be-announced women’s professional soccer league we keep sort of hearing about.

Los Angeles has been excluded from the mix for what is said to be geographical reasons. Soccer Wire reported last week that the league will consist of eight teams, with the only two on the West Coast being in Portland, Ore. and Seattle, Wash.

So, yes, an LA team would be the only presence for the league in the southwest corner of the United States based on that list. And yes, WPS and FC Gold Pride (Bay Area), in particular, frequently cited travel as a budgetary strain. But should geography override a strong ownership group?

What could have been for this still-rumored women’s professional league is an already established brand in the second largest market in the United States. The Pali Blues and LA Strikers of the USL W-League had teamed up in a bid for a LA-area franchise. Pali is one of the most established women’s soccer brands in the country and have consistently found ways to not only win (W-League champions in 2008 and 2009) and develop players (the names that have passed through there are extensive and impressive), but to balance the budget.

Women’s soccer teams come and go, especially at the semi-pro level. Everything I’m told is that money isn’t the issue for LA — it’s geography.

My guess is that the other owners and, just as likely likely, U.S. Soccer looked at a LA team and thought travel would be an issue not only for that team, but for other teams flying out there. I get that. But in omitting LA, they have passed up the opportunity at adding to the league another established brand in the women’s soccer hotbed that is Southern California.

The Los Angeles Sol averaged 6,298 fans in 10 home games in 2009.No other WPS team in history even averaged as much as 5,000 fans per game. (LA folded in January 2010 after a deal for a new ownership group fell through. AEG only signed on for one year; that scenario is in no way connected to what was in the works for this proposed new league.)

U.S. Soccer and the rest of the owners may be hedging their bets that LA will still be an option in 2014 and beyond when they can bring in LA along with another California city to create another pod of teams in that region, which is an established geographic goal of this new venture. The trouble is, there is no guaranteeing that this group will be willing to wait around for that, which means everything would start from scratch in SoCal.

And good ownership groups aren’t that easy to find. WPS struggled with that plenty, including the embarrassment of Saint Louis Athletica folding mid-season in 2010.

Some tweets for digesting:

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