Women’s Professional Soccer lacked an all-star game and a team west of the Mississippi in 2011. But on the verge of the New Year, an all-star quality squad has formed outside of Los Angeles.
No, WPS has not announced any news on expansion. The Los Angeles Vikings are making waves as an offseason dream team that gives top professional players a chance to play at a high level during the WPS offseason. The Vikings pro team is unaffiliated with any league, but offers a level at which some players may not otherwise have the opportunity to play.
The team, which includes defender Ali Riley, midfielder Brittany Bock and forward Christen Press, just to name a few, has plans to play some of the best national teams in the world.
“In a nutshell, a lot of them just want to play against national teams,” said Robert P. Kleinberger, LA Vikings president and head coach. “The only other way they would get to do that is to play with the U.S.”
The next best thing to playing for the United States is playing against the U.S. The Vikings tied the U.S. national team on Dec. 10 without ever even practicing as a team. Next up for LA is a match against Canada on Jan. 9 followed by matches against Mexico on Jan. 12 and 14. The previously scheduled Jan. 16 game against Trinidad & Tobago has been cancelled.
All three of those matches will be played at Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal. State-Fullerton, a 10,000 seat venue that Kleinberger sees as an ideal venue for a potential WPS team.
“We legitimately would like to have a team in WPS in 2013,” he said. “That’s what we are striving for. At this juncture it is important to see what we are looking at – players, stadium; those things.”
January’s matches give Kleinberger & Company a platform to evaluate their business model, which Kleinberger says is slightly different from the model of current WPS teams. Kleinberger has enlisted locals Brian Boswell and Pete McNulty for business advice.
Kleinberger said he has no set expectations for fan turnout for the upcoming games, but he knows there is a lot of interest in women’s soccer in Southern California.
“Come mid-January we will actually have validated a lot of those (costs),” Kleinberger said.
Kleinberger has a vision for a truly year-round club, unlike current WPS teams that play from March through August and essentially drop off the map and completely change their rosters in the offseason.
The LA Viking Cup is tentatively planned for September, with interest from Mexico, Sweden and Canada. Kleinberger sees events like the LA Viking Cup as a way to play year-round. The team could cover expenses and pay the players a reduced salary in the off-season in order to keep continuity amongst the team, he said.
For Viking Athletic Club and WPS, 2013 is the goal, but as league officials have stated over the past year, Western expansion has to include a group of teams. The Vikings will continue to play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League this summer and will look to retain any players unable to make a WPS roster.
“There are a lot of people in Southern California that are legitimately interested in having a team out here,” Kleinberger said. “The fan base is here.”