On the day the United States Women’s National Team is set to take on Japan in the 2012 Summer Olympics’ gold medal match comes word that a new professional league intends to begin play in spring 2013. As reported, plans for this league heated up in mid-July at a meeting in Chicago, the home of U.S. Soccer.
According to a release distributed by Boston Breakers’ communication early Thursday morning, the new, yet to be named league will feature at least eight teams, including three former Women’s Professional Soccer teams: the Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC.
They will be joined by a to-be-formed Seattle-based team, one of at least two entrants who will play on the West Coast.
In addition to those four commitments, the new league claims “four other teams are finalizing their participation in the league,” with the league’s organizers “working with United Soccer Leagues (USL) and Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).”
“All these teams are committed to playing with and against each other starting in 2013 and to working out the final details to allow a sustainable professional league for women’s soccer in the U.S.,” said Michael Stoller, Boston Breakers’ Managing Partner.
Though the league’s initial announcement cited plans for eight teams, more members will be welcome.
“This is an inclusive not an exclusive effort,” according to Arnim Whisler, owner of the Chicago Red Stars. “If teams want to join and can meet the minimum standards then we welcome them. This league is for the players that want to play and be on the [United States Women’s National Team] radar, the fans that continue to support us despite our false starts in the past, and the teams that are committed to elite women’s soccer.”
Women’s Professional Soccer ceased operations earlier this year after three seasons as U.S. Soccer’s sanctioned first division league. In 2012, three former WPS teams participated in the WPSL Elite (Western New York Flash, Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars), while the league’s former players that stayed in North America were scattered between the WPSL Elite, W-League, and WPSL.
The following is the full statement released by Boston Breakers’ communications early Thursday morning:
Top Teams Finalizing the Formation of Women’s Soccer League
CHICAGO, IL (Aug. 9, 2012) – With the conclusion of both the WPSL Elite League and W-League semi-pro women’s playoffs and the ongoing thrilling performance of the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Olympic Games, five of the top women’s soccer teams in the country are announcing the formation of a new professional women’s soccer league that will start play in the spring of 2013.
Among the teams are the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, a newly formed team in Seattle, and New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC, three out of four of which were members of the prior Women’s Professional Soccer league. Additionally, four other teams are finalizing their participation in the league including another team that will be located on the West Coast.
“All these teams are committed to playing with and against each other starting in 2013 and to working out the final details to allow a sustainable professional league for women’s soccer in the U.S.,” said Michael Stoller, Managing Partner of the Boston Breakers. “We want to emphasize this is not a competitor to any of the existing leagues, but rather this is a significant step up in the competitive level and professional standards and we expect to establish a natural relationship to allow teams to enter this new league and perhaps to fall back (self-relegate) to their prior league if they need a break from the higher spending and competitive requirements.”
Much work has already been done to structure the minimum standards, season length, player requirements and conferences. It is expected that several more teams will join the league in the coming month or two as discussions continue with several other ownership groups.
This league is being created by ownership groups within the existing leagues on the basis of understanding the successes and failures of the first two attempts at a professional league in America. A main goal for the league is to provide the best U.S. players with the ability to develop and train at a high level on a consistent basis. The team owners are driving this effort and are working to make sure the league will help prepare those players for international competition with the U.S. WNT.
The founders of the new league have been working with United Soccer Leagues (USL) and Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) to attempt to solidify the relationship and roles of the existing women’s leagues with the new league and participation for all teams that elect to meet the minimum standards. This is an acknowledgement on the long-term success and sustainability of semi-pro women’s soccer leagues in this country.
WPSL has participated in the planning for the new league, “We have supported women’s soccer for decades and are very proud of our creation of the WPSL Elite League this year and the role we have been able to play in bringing this new league together for 2013. We are committed to easy movement for teams between WPSL and this new league and we will also provide a place for reserve teams to play,” said Jerry Zanelli, founder and President of WPSL. “Many details remain to be worked out but we will support the new league in its growth and are happy to see an unambiguous future for women’s professional soccer in the United States.”
“We are excited to bring the highest level of women’s soccer to Seattle,” said Bill Predmore, President of Seattle-based digital marketing agency, POP, and the leader of the ownership group for the new Seattle club. “Seattle has a long history of enthusiastic support for professional soccer, which we hope will provide us with a strong base of fans for the new women’s club.”
According to Arnim Whisler, owner of the Chicago Red Stars, “This is an inclusive not an exclusive effort. If teams want to join and can meet the minimum standards then we welcome them. This league is for the players that want to play and be on the WNT radar, the fans that continue to support us despite our false starts in the past, and the teams that are committed to elite women’s soccer. We have been very happy with the WPSL Elite season that we just completed and cannot thank Jerry enough for his providing so many teams the place to play this year on such short notice and we see this as a natural extension of that model to a more permanent league and infrastructure.”
In the near future, there will be more detailed discussions with U.S. Soccer on the proper sanctioning process.