Featured / WPS

New women’s pro league to take the field in March/April

Photo: Paul Rudderow

At a press conference on Wednesday, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced that a new women’s professional league will begin play in March/April of 2013. The season will end September/October.

The league will begin with eight teams: Boston Breakers, Western New York Flash, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC (NJ), DC, Kansas City, Portland, and Seattle.

MLS team Portland Timbers will be involved with the Portland-based women’s team.

The name of the new league has not yet been confirmed but is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Gulati said that US Soccer will run the front office of the new league.”U.S. Soccer will absorb all of the costs of running the front office,” Gulati explained, “so there is no capital contributions needed to the normal functions of a normal front office of scheduling, promotions, websites. All of those things will be handled by U.S. Soccer.”

The US, Canadian, and Mexican federations will also subsidize the salaries of some national team players in the league. ” In the case of the U.S., it’s funding up to 24 players,” Gulati said. “I say up to. It is our intent to fund 24 players, but if a couple of players decide to for example play in Europe, it might be less than that. The Canadian Association is up to 16, kind of on the same basis, and the Mexican Federation will be a minimum of 12 funded players. You’re looking at situation where each team could have seven players from those three national teams that are funded by the three federations.”

Gulati continued, “You’re going to see a lot of top players. There’s no doubt there will be top players coming from elsewhere. Whether it’s the same level and same number of players previously, I don’t want to confirm that. It may well be that some players on these rosters aren’t doing this on a full-time basis, at least in the offseason so they might have a part-time job, or they might be at grad school or whatever else it might be. Those will be substantial differences and we’ll add to those things in terms of marketing effort, player compensation and so on as we develop this and frankly have the revenue to do so.”

On the question of the distribution and acquisition of players in the league, Gulati said, “There will be some form of a draft for additional players, and there might well be a draft for some of the national team players, as well.”

Boston Breakers managing partner Michael Stoller said, “This is a true professional league and standard of play. As Sunil said, the level of play, the game level, will be amazing. The level of day-in and day-out training and practices and the level of games will be played by literally the top 10, 12 players on each and every team in world.”

Stoller said one cost saving will be achieved by playing in smaller stadiums. “That is game day cost saving that is substantial for all of us.”

In addition to further savings resulting from the US, Canadian, and Mexican federations, Stoller said savings in administrative costs would also be achieved. “With the help of the federations,” Stoller explained, “our player cost is a fraction of what it was when we were paying all of those players those salaries. We’ll also have inner staffs and use more web-kind services and more interns and those kinds of things to keep our back office costs down but still have all of the requirements of fielding a professional standard operating model. The numbers are substantially down and with the kind of sponsorship we think we’ll be able to get over next few years, this is truly a sustainable model that we’ll be able to increase those costs along with increasing revenue. We won’t start off with the sort of deficits that we started the last two leagues with.”

Operating costs aside, the success of the league will ultimately come from the quality of play on the field. “What we need is a sustainable model: less hype, better performance,” Gulati said. “The hype will come if we have the performance. I think immediately you’re going to see one of the best leagues in world in the sense that you’ve got three teams that have qualified for World Cups, have qualified in the last World Cup, and in the case of the U.S. obviously a multi-time medalist.”

3 Comments

  1. I wonder how this will play out for the players still under contract to Dan Borislaw. They could hold out against a new league with Borislaws cash and keep backing him if he continues to be spiteful. But with US soccers direct involvement in the league there could be a threat involved to those players. Or at least with the league picking up salaries a carrot and stick approach.

  2. I’m thrilled at this news, but heartbroken that there’s no Philly team. Does anyone know anything about interested owners in Philly?

  3. Does anyone else feel that MLS Club’s all should have a women’s squad if the crowds are smaller than that of the 1st men squad the club’s could section off the seating the MLS Club’s have a fan base already support your club

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