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WPS issues statement on sanctioning

Women’s Professional Soccer issued the following statement on Friday on its quest to be sanctioned by U.S. Soccer as a Division 1 league in 2012. The league will again require a waiver from the federation for such classification, since it does not meet the minimum of eight teams in three different time zones.

Concerning for the league: WPS CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan points out in the statement below that 2011 was the league’s “strongest season,” citing rises in attendance, sponsorship and popularity. If women’s pro soccer cannot find a way to advance itself even at an all-time high, when can it? Even if the league moves forward with five teams, it will mean it has contracted by one team each year since launching in 2009, despite having added three expansion teams since.

Jack Bell provides some further insight in this New York Times article. The ‘relaunch’ of the Sol surely refers to the long-awaited (and still being waited on) development of the WPSL’s Los Angeles Wave into a WPS franchise, which was the original intent. The interest from the Northwest is also nothing new either, but it sure would be interesting to hear more about ESPN’s channel geared toward women.

Here is that statement from WPS:

All professional soccer leagues in the United States, including WPS, are subject to sanctioning by U.S. Soccer and an annual review.

The Professional League Standards as set out by U.S. Soccer require all professional leagues, including those at Division 1 – the highest level of soccer sanctioned by U.S. Soccer – to field a minimum of eight teams.  U.S. Soccer granted WPS, the only women’s professional league in this country, a waiver and sanctioned the League as a top tier, Division 1 league with six teams for the 2011 season.

WPS has again applied for a waiver from U.S. Soccer of this requirement to retain its status as a Division 1 professional league for 2012 with its current field of five teams (Atlanta, Boston, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Western New York).  WPS made this request in its application based on the tremendous interest in women’s soccer, potential for growth in markets across the country, and expressed interest from viable expansion candidates for the 2013 season.

“While we take very seriously the issue of U.S. Soccer’s classification of us as a Division 1 league, we are both confident and undeterred in our mission to continue and to be the best women’s professional soccer league in the world,” said Women’s Professional Soccer CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan.

“WPS enjoyed our strongest season in 2011 setting new attendance records, increasing sponsorship and engaging our growing fan base through social media. Our brand was bolstered by the FIFA World Cup and we expect continued momentum from the 2012 Olympics next summer. Given these factors in addition to our long-term plan for growth, extensive expansion franchise pipeline, and the investment and commitment of a core group of owners, we would hope that the Federation would continue support for the only professional soccer league for women in the United States.”

While no final decision has been made by U.S. Soccer on the sanctioning of WPS for 2012, U.S. Soccer has given WPS additional time to resolve the issues they identified in the League’s annual report.  WPS is engaged in positive dialogue with U.S. Soccer and will continue ongoing discussions in the coming days to determine what is necessary for the League to retain its Division 1 status.



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