Saturday, July 23, 2011

Women's soccer seemingly has options for escalation

Plenty of people believe in women's professional soccer as a concept. The question is how many believe in Women's Professional Soccer as a league or in each other's visions for how the league should look.

How women's soccer takes shape in the months between the bright spotlight of the World Cup and the slightly dimmer spotlight of the Olympics depends on several key players:

Potential WPS expansion owners

The names aren't known, but league CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas said WPS is talking with parties whose interest grew during the World Cup.

"[The Cup] has buoyed our continuing expansion discussions with West Coast teams, which have been ongoing since early this year," Eileraas said.

WPS currently has six teams and is operating under a waiver from U.S. Soccer, which normally requires eight teams for a first-division league.

Dan Borislow

The magicJack owner stepped up when no local buyer could be found for the Washington Freedom, and he moved the team to Boca Raton, Fla. He quickly established he wasn't one to follow league precedent.

Borislow has been fined, his team was deducted a point in the standings and the league banned him from any coaching role after receiving a grievance from the league's union over the way he treated players.

Added Eileraas, "The 2012 WPS season is not dependent on Mr. Borislow's participation."
And yet owners are leaving the door open as well, not begrudging Borislow for having a different way of doing things.

Major League Soccer

The men's league is stable, and it has a few footholds in the women's game with affiliates in lower divisions.
WPS owners have kept open lines of communications with MLS for years.
"We're very friendly with MLS, and if something comes of that, that'd be fantastic," Johnson said.

The W-League

Over the winter, the W-League's Buffalo Flash became WPS' Western New York Flash. But don't expect the W-League, which operates under the large umbrella of United Soccer Leagues (USL), to let itself be a training ground for future WPS teams.

Instead, the W-League is exploring the possibility of its own pro division, though not one that would compete head-to-head with WPS.


Despite sharing three letters of its abbreviation with WPS, the Women's Premier Soccer League is not affiliated with the pro league.

WPSL commissioner Jerry Zanelli says his league is poised to expand from 62 teams to more than 70 in the wake of the World Cup. He says he has productive relationships with some WPS owners. Not with the W-League, though.


Leagues and teams are seeing a surge of interest since the World Cup. Johnson says the Beat has attracted new sponsors for small items such as the game ball.

Players also might not be looking at huge checks to supplement their modest pay from WPS or even smaller pay from the W-League and WPSL. But they're finding more doors open as well.


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