Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
BOCA RATON, Fla. — A new women’s professional soccer league in the United States is set to begin in 2013, and it might wind up launching without some of the more recognizable stars of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the final game of their Fan Tribute Tour, several American players touched on how exciting it was to hear that a new league was set to start after seeing the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league fold this past May. What was also heard was skepticism about whether many of the U.S. team’s star players would actually play in the new league, with several key players expressing concerns about the sustainability of a new league after several failed attempts to run a professional women’s soccer league in the United States.
“It’s always exciting, the potential to build the game here in America, but we’ll have to see what happens,” said goalkeeper Hope Solo. “I personally haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to play in the league or not. It’s to be determined to see how professional the league really is. I hope it stays because the next time we come with a league it better not collapse again. It better be here to stay.”
Another star player on the team who shared that sentiment was forward Alex Morgan. The 23-year-old Olympic star wants to back the new league, but she is also undecided about whether she would play in it because of how many questions remain unanswered about it.
“I’m really excited that U.S. Soccer has stepped up and that there’s eight owners, at least, that have invested in this women’s league but obviously for me I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do,” said Morgan. “I obviously want to support this league but I want to make sure that the right steps are taken to make this league the best league in the world and sustainable as well.”
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced in late November that a new eight-team league would begin play in spring 2013 and it would play a major part in organizing and running the league so as to ensure a business model with a focus on sustainability. As part of the approach for the new league, USSF would pay the salaries of up to 24 U.S. Women’s National Team players (while Mexico and Canada’s federations would do the same for some of their respective players).
USSF will also fund the league office and there are already plans to expand the league to 10 teams by 2014. The teams currently slated to start play in 2013 will be based in Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Western New York, New Jersey, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. The league will play a 22-game schedule from March through August.
Though not all of the U.S. Women’s team’s top stars have committed to the new league, there is still considerable support within the U.S. team for it. Star striker Abby Wambach admitted that while some players may opt to pursue opportunities overseas or elsewhere, most of the U.S. team has committed to trying to help the new league start on a strong foot and flourish.
“For the most part, the majority of the team will be participating,” said Wambach. “To have a new league, it’s really exciting. We’re, as a national team, really excited that U.S. Soccer is backing it because we know that there will be funds and that’s been the biggest issue. There needs to be funds from the owner as well, but at the end of the day if U.S. Soccer is running it, we know that it’s not going to just fold. We know it will last at least through the season, and if the level of play is good enough for us, we’re going to continue to support it.
“That’s really the most I can say about it. So many things are still left undecided, the team names, what the league is going to be called, but those are the kind of things that we think will work themselves out and I’m excited about the opportunity of possibly starting and keeping a professional league sustainable.”