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Timbers in, Sounders out of new women’s league

SEATTLE — The foreseeable future of women’s professional soccer does not include the Seattle Sounders organization. Instead, president of digital agency POP Bill Predmore’s group will participate in the new pro league next summer.

Predmore’s new team released a statement that it will play 22 regular-season games, including three against teams in Boston, New Jersey, Western New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Kansas City and an extra game against the new team in Portland.

“We are thrilled that the United States Soccer Federation has selected our club to represent Seattle in the new league,” Predmore said. “In our proposal, we articulated a clear mission: to become one of the best women’s soccer clubs in the world. We believe the fans in Seattle deserve nothing less, and we look forward to earning their support over the coming weeks and months.”

Sounders Women will remain in the W-League, the club announced in its own press release, just minutes prior to a U.S. Soccer conference call on Wednesday.

“With the backdrop of the USL’s decision, a few weeks ago, to step away from involvement in operating a newly proposed women’s soccer league, the Seattle Sounders Women received word that the franchise proposal from the Sounders Women to U.S. Soccer was not accepted,” the release said.

Sounders Women will continue to play at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, and the club’s contract with USL expires after the 2014 season.

“Congratulations to Bill with the new team and league,” Sounders Women co-owner and CEO Lane Smith said. “Seattle is a fantastic market for soccer, and the Seattle Sounders Women wish them the best in the upcoming inaugural season. With this new team and the Seattle Sounders Women’s continued representation in the long-established W-League, Seattle soccer fans will be blessed with the opportunity to attend many high level women’s soccer matches.”

On the conference call, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said the relationship with USL will continue, and the group has been helpful in the process of setting up the new league.

“We’ve had a very cooperative set of discussions with leadership of the USL,” he said. “They remain an important part of the growth of the game.”

General manager of Seattle Sounders FC Adrian Hanauer welcomed Predmore’s team to the scene in Predmore’s press release.

“We are excited to welcome the new club to the Seattle soccer community,” Hanauer said. “We look forward to building a strong relationship between the clubs, as it is clear we are both committed to delivering world-class soccer experiences to our fans. We hope fans will embrace the new club and show them amazing support.”

While Hanauer and Sounders FC are hands-off in their approach to the new league, their neighbors to the south are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson is an investor in the new women’s team in Portland, Gulati said on the conference call.

Immediately after the conclusion of the call, Paulson and the Timbers made a statement of their own, began accepting $25 refundable season ticket deposits for the new women’s team and started a Twitter account for the team.

“We are pleased to partner with U.S. Soccer to bring a new women’s professional team to Portland and to do our part to make a top-flight women’s league possible in our country,” Paulson said. “The Timbers are, and always will be, steadfastly committed to growing the sport of soccer in our region at all levels, and championing a new women’s league and operating a team here in Soccer City, USA, will be an important part of that growth.

“Building on today’s news, soccer fans can look forward to many exciting announcements in the coming weeks and months leading up to the club’s inaugural season, including team name, logo and uniforms; schedule and ticket information; and a host of prominent roster announcements.”

Paulson and Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson were instrumental in bringing the WPSL to Portland in 2012.

The Portland Rain played multiple doubleheaders with the Timbers Under-23 team of the PDL, and both clubs played games at high schools around the Portland area. Current Timbers Academy Director and under-16 head coach Mike Smith was the head coach of the Rain in 2012.

When the new women’s league kicks off in March or April, Seattle and Portland will have another arena in which to battle for Pacific Northwest bragging rights.

Liviu Bird is a freelance journalist in Seattle who contributes to The New York Times, American Soccer Now and Prost Amerika. Follow him on Twitter.

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