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Sources: Athletica, brother club may not survive season

Four months after Women’s Professional Soccer’s first experience
losing a franchise, the league is on the verge of losing a second,
with sources confirming the Saint Louis Athletica may not make it
through the end of the 2010 season.

Athletic Club of Saint Louis, the group that operates Athletica, is
almost out of money.  As of Thursday afternoon, it was unclear whether
they would be able to make Friday’s payroll for their North American
Soccer League team.  Sources say Athletica payroll must be met a week
later, but as of now the club does not have the cash reserves to meet
either commitment.

Women’s Professional Soccer was not available for comment, though
sources close to the situation confirm WPS continues to monitor the
situation and is in conversations with the United States Soccer
Federation, who is trying to forge a solution which will allow both
the Athletica and the club’s men’s professional team to complete the
2010 season.

Sources also confirm there have been discussions about immediately
folding the team; however, there remains hope that an alternative
source of funding can be found.  Those hopes, however, are tied to the
men’s team, and while it is thought the operations of the teams are
linked such that one can not be saved without saving the other,
Athletica’s future still appears tied to the future of the club’s NASL

While Athetlica’s operating costs for the rest of the 2009 season are
thought to be roughly one-third those of AC St. Louis’s, preliminary
estimates of the amount of money that can be raised fail to meet
Athletica’s current operating costs, let alone AC St. Louis’s.

Athletica’s financial problems surfaced when AC St. Louis fell behind
in payments to the NASL league office.  Clubs in that league are
required to periodically send money to the league to help cover
operating expenses.  Jeff Cooper, owner of the AC St. Louis group,
notified the NASL he did not have the cash reserves to continue
operating his teams.  Shortly there after, the USSF was made aware of
the problem.

Even if Athletica can make it through this season, eventually losing the
Saint Louis team and market would be a major blow to the league.
Beyond having a second team fold in 2010, WPS would lose a team
that plays in a club-owned facility, with AC St. Louis controlling
Anheiser Busch Soccer Park.  Saint Louis is also home to one of the
nation’s most well organized youth systems.  Saint Louis is also one of
the most historically significant soccer cities in the United
States, with high-level soccer leagues present in Saint
Louis for 100 years.

On the field, Saint Louis is one of the most talented teams in the
league, and although is it too soon to speculate what would happen to
the player contracts should Athletica cease to exist, a number of
prominent players would move.  U.S. internationals Hope Solo, Shannon
Boxx, Lori Chalupny, and Lindsey Tarpley currently play in Saint
Louis, as do prominent internationals Eniola Aluko, Anita Asante, and
Aya Miyama.

Athletica currently sit in fifth place, one year after finishing second.


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