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Antonucci talks All-Star Game, expansion and Women's World Cup break

The 2010 WPS All-Star Game has gone as quickly as it came, but it is never too early to begin looking at next year.  This year’s mid-season installment of the showcase stands in contrast to the 2009 WPS All-Star Game, which took place just August 30, one week after the 2009 WPS Championship.

Wednesday’s match, which drew 4,610 fans to KSU Soccer Stadium, served as a way to space out the WPS All-Star Game and the WPS Championship, two of the league’s signature events.

“One of the challenges we had last year was that it was back-to-back with our championship so there wasn’t as much time to sort of prepare for fans and partners and even the players to sort of get ready for it,” WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said.  “So, this is the more traditional mid-season approach so we are giving it a try, but it’s nice because it can help us sort of build momentum toward the championship and with the World Cup going on and all the kind of summer soccer excitement, it’s nice to sort of have all of our best players – the best of the best – right in the middle of the World Cup.  It’s kind of a nice package.”

Antonucci said Wednesday’s date was chosen in order to avoid a World Cup play date.

Next summer will feature a different World Cup – the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup from Germany.  That will see approximately one-third of the league’s players head to Germany.  Those are significant enough number’s to drain the league of its top players and even bring team rosters below a capacity that could operate during the Women’s World Cup, which takes place June 26, 2011 – July 17, 2011.

With so many players missing, it would seem inevitable the WPS will have to take a mid-season break.

“Potentially, yeah,” Antonucci said.  “We are just starting to engage with U.S. Soccer and other federations for best plan next season.  Obviously we want to do right by the national programs and make sure that the Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport as far as an event – that with the Olympics.  So we want to work together with them but we also want to preserve as much of the WPS regular season as we can, so the talks are just natural.”

That would also prevent a mid-season All-Star Game from happening.  As it stands, most players that grazed the KSU Soccer Stadium pitch Wednesday will be in Germany in a year’s time.  Antonucci acknowledged that it could be a significant challenge to host an All-Star Game – perhaps even a regular season game – during the Women’s World Cup.

But still, plans move forward.  WPS will almost certainly look the same next season, with seven franchises battling for the title.  At this point, it would be too much to ask of a new franchise to build momentum toward 2011 when the 2011 WPS Draft is just six months away.  At that point, a team would have to be well-established in its market, something that just cannot happen that quickly.

“Yeah, I mean I think it is very likely that we will be in a position to announce by the end of the year a new expansion team,” Antonucci said.  “More likely for 2012.  I think at this point it is probably more pragmatic to say 2012.  We are having discussions with different markets and their varying levels of sort of advancement.  But, I think that we are talking to enough interested parties for 2012 that by the end of this year we are probably in a position to announce that one will be coming for 2012.  We have a particular focus on west, West Coast, middle-to-west and we just want to balance out the national footprint for sure.


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