After months of speculation US Soccer President Sunil Gulati today announced a new, U.S. Soccer led, women’s professional soccer league. Six months after the official shuttering of WPS, and almost a year after the league suspended operations, Gulati introduced the eight team league in a conference call with the national soccer media. Also in attendance were leaders of the Canadian Soccer Association and the Federation of Mexican Football, along with a representative of the new league’s team owners.
Despite the failures of the WUSA, which played from 2000 – 2003, and WPS, which lasted from 2009 until 2012, the parties involved believe that this third time will be the charm, in large part because of what they see as an improved business model.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati explained that his organization would run the as yet unnamed league’s front office, a significant savings for the team owners. In another innovative move the federations of the United States, Canada and Mexico, would directly finance the salaries of a number of their own national team players, also lessening the risk factor for the ownership groups.
U.S. Soccer would take on the salaries of up to 24 national team players, Canada would finance up to 16, and Mexico would supply a minimum of 12 players to the league. With as many as seven players per team coming from the three Concacaf national teams, Gulati believes that the new league will be, “immediately one of the top leagues in the world.” The business model was described as being, “less hype, better performance,” with the hype hopefully to follow.
Gulati said that, “not everything is finalized,” in fact the U.S.Soccer President, said, “that things are happening at a breakneck pace.” No team owners were named at today’s conference call, although Gulati indicated that one team will be owned by an MLS ownership group, and that some former WPS groups will be involved.
With eight teams, the league would avoid the need for a waiver from FIFA to operate as a tier one professional league, something that WPS required throughout its existence. The locations of the teams are to be Boston, New Jersey, upstate New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Kansas City, Portland, and Seattle. Gulati said that these were the best eight teams to start the league, and that cities such as Los Angeles, that are not in the first eight , could be considered in the future.
Gulati was not prepared to announce any commitments from national team players, although he reported, “very good signals,” adding that, “they want to see what the league looks like.”
The league is expected to be up and running by March or April, and will run through September or October. Gulati stressed the importance of a women’s professional league, saying, “the best way, long term, to build a (national) team is to have a league.”
Many more details are expected to emerge in the coming weeks and we will try to keep you up to date on developments regarding team ownership, the salary cap, player commitments, and maybe even the name of the league.