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Eight-team women’s soccer league set to begin play in Spring 2013

Nov 21, 2012, 2:26 PM EDT

Germany v United States Getty Images

It doesn’t have a name yet. That detail is still being worked out, as are most of the details of the new eight-team women’s soccer league that will be run by U.S. Soccer. The important thing: The league’s going to happen.

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati made that clear in Wednesday’s announcement, saying teams in Boston, New Jersey, Western New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Kansas City, Seattle and Portland — teams selected based on a number of factors (independent assessment of accountants, grass roots considerations, geography) — will begin play in March or April of 2013. The 22-game season will run until September or October. Teams will play each other at least three times.

As of yet, there’s no national television deal. No national sponsors have been announced, but there’s a handshake deal place with one company. Stadiums, team names, salary structures, player allocation – these details will be revealed in the couple of weeks.

But here’s what we do know:

  • U.S. Soccer will fund and run the league office.
  • They will also finance the inclusion of up to 24 U.S. Women’s National Team members. Some players may elect to pass on the league, but U.S. Soccer is committed to supplying up to three players per team.
  • The Canadian and Mexican federations are also subsidizing talent. Canada will pay for up to 16 players (conceivably, two per team) while Mexico will provide a minimum of 12.
  • Player and team preferences will be considered when allocating players.

We also know some of the federations’ key motivations: Sustainability and development.

Costs for the individual teams will be kept low by U.S., Canadian, and Mexican soccer subsidizing the teams’ most expensive talents. Game day facilities will be selected with cost in mind (no more Toyota Park or Home Depot Center). Teams were selected to both create a national footprint and manage travel (coast-to-coast teams, but in clusters). The lower costs will mitigate the amount of private sector investment needed to keep it afloat.

But the federation representatives made no bones about it: Giving their players a place to develop ahead of Canada 2015 was a key motivation. It’s why federations — not a private entity — are backing the latest attempt at a women’s league. The new league will give CONCACAF’s three biggest nations a place to foster talent ahead of the next World Cup.

With so many details yet to be finalized, it’s difficult to make too many assessments about the league. The thing doesn’t even have a name yet. Still, it’s hard to see today’s news as anything but an extremely positive development. Women’s soccer league or no women’s soccer league? It’s a pretty easy choice, one that’s easy to support.

That the league is focused on sustainability at its onset means fan support is more likely to be rewarded. That support was left floundering after three-year windows slammed shut on the Women’s United Soccer Association and Women’s Professional Soccer.

Who knows whether the new league will ever see year four, but at least there is a new league — a league that seems to know what it’s up against.

  1. danielofthedale - Nov 21, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    This league has something in common with MLS, no teams in the Southeast. Atlanta drew 3.600/game I think its first season in 2010 and then 4,800 in 2011. I would hope that there was just not anyone coming from the city to be a potential owner and that it was not the league deciding that it would not come back.

    • Richard Farley - Nov 21, 2012 at 3:46 PM

      There are a lot of things from today’s call that didn’t fit into this post that I can try to answer, this being one. Besides, this provides a nice break from the Benítez thoughts I’m editing.

      Regarding other markest in general, Gulati implied they wanted to go with eight teams to start. He cited a desire to avoid thinning out the talent.

      He also said that markets weren’t so much rejected as USSF just picked the eight they thought were best. In that sense, while it’s disappointing Atlanta isn’t involved, it’s neither surprising nor discouraging. Hopefully, that market (along with places like Los Angeles) will continue to try and get a team.

      • danielofthedale - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM

        Thanks for the extra info. I completely understand not wanting to dilute the talent base to much.

  2. nickp91 - Nov 21, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    new era of women’s professional soccer

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:52 PM

      Indeed. Great to see. As a guy who doesn’t live near any of the cities, I hope they will be on TV!

  3. gatordontplay - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    They should be in a kitchen not on a soccer field

    • Richard Farley - Nov 21, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Please don’t reply to this. I’ll probably purge it (and the original comment) if the thread devolves; however …

      … on what could be a very important day for the sport, I want to leave this as a reminder of …

      (a) The Internet!
      (b) There are still a lot of idiots among us, and initiatives like the new league have more then mere athletic virtues.

  4. thomaspratt - Nov 21, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Should be a team in Vancouver. Crowds turned out for the CONCACAF tournament there recently, and I think Canadians learned to fall in love with women’s soccer at the Olympics last year. Could also piggy back on the Cascadia rivalry with Seattle and Portland.

  5. BigBeachBall - Nov 21, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Dont say that it isnt expensive to run. This league will lose millions every year. That said, women like wambach and solo make it all worth it…. They need to specifically recruit role models like that in order to make everything even out in the end.

    • Richard Farley - Nov 22, 2012 at 1:01 AM

      Based in what we know right now, I’d besurprised if the losses are as bad as you’re projecting. That the federations are subsidizing the biggest operating expendaute while US Soccer finances and runs league operations menas teams will have greatly reduced overheads.

      But, we’ll see.

  6. lunasceiling - Nov 22, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    With any luck, the Portland team will be able to wok out a financial arrangement with Jeld-Wen Field (the timbers’ home) that makes sense. It’s a great venue (and it’s just a few blocks from my house!).

    • lunasceiling - Nov 22, 2012 at 12:09 AM

      Also: I hope we can draft Megan Rapinoe! =)

    • Richard Farley - Nov 22, 2012 at 1:02 AM

      I suspect almost all of Portland’s games will be at Jeld-Wen.

      • lunasceiling - Nov 26, 2012 at 1:37 AM

        Sure looks like it: some info on the Timbers’ website indicates that Merritt Paulson and the Timbers organization are involved with the team. That would say to me that Jeld-Wen is going to be the home venue. Yay!

  7. behaviorquest - Nov 22, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Just in case anyone was wondering this has no chance of working about as much as a ice cube on a hot griddle. Let’s see, Arena Football, Lacrosse, Woman’s NBA, Professional Softball and the list goes on. These ideas are from the lost causes of US sports history.

    • joshcarey - Nov 22, 2012 at 3:27 AM

      With the exception of the professional softball league, you just rattled off a list of sports leagues that are currently in operation and not really in danger of being shut down…

  8. iamjimmyjack - Nov 22, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    I’m not a fan of soccer in general. However, watching the women’s American soccer team compete in the Olympics over the past 5 years has been fun to watch. These girls are really really good. Especially Amy wambach and Alex Morgan. A women’s soccer league would be successful IMO. A lot of girls grow up playing the sport and would love to cheer for a local team.

  9. bloodydamnsox - Nov 22, 2012 at 2:03 AM

    The USWNT have brought in crowds of 20,000 a match during their gold medal victory tour. If a league is going to form, now is the time to do it. I know plenty of soccer fans who’ll make the trip from LA to Portland to show support.

  10. tylerbetts - Nov 23, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this league. Federation involvements, subsidies, current fan interest in the product, etc.

    However, one thing gives me serious pause: geography.

    The league is basically split into three groups (NY/NJ/Boston/DC, Chicago/KC, Portland/Seattle). That means for Portland, for example, 75% of their away games are going to be significantly distant from home. That’s going to be tough on fan interest. A TV package could help with that, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Those travel costs (not sure where that obligation lies) is going to be huge for the start-up league.

    Of course, there’s no easy solution to that issue. The best markets for soccer and where you’d likely have the best chance for grassroots success (Portland and Seattle) aren’t exactly nice travel for the other places it’s best to put teams (East Coast, KC, maybe Texas). I’d almost want to support a regional model where you’d play West Coast teams vs West Coast Teams and East Coast teams vs East Coast teams until the postseason. Maybe if the league can get their feet under them we can get to 6-8 WC teams (adding in the LA market, Vancouver, and a few others) and 6-8 EC teams and get to that sort of model.

    In any case, I’ll be trying to follow it as best I can. Neither my home club (Crew) or my location (Denver) have a team, so I just get to sit back and enjoy the soccer.

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