New Women's Pro Soccer League Backed By USSF; Gulati Touts New Economic Model
U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati on Wednesday “announced the formation of an eight-team women's professional league that will begin play in the spring,” according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. The move marks “the third time a women's soccer league has been launched in the U.S. in the last 12 years -- and the first two lasted just three seasons before folding, with economic issues fueling both collapses.” Gulati “promises that won't happen this time.” He said, "The model is quite different both in terms of the sort of players that you might go out and get internationally, in terms of the marketing and promotional efforts and maybe in terms of some of the stadiums." Baxter reported Gulati is “gambling U.S. Soccer's reputation and riches on the idea.” USSF will “not only fund the league office," but also will "pay the salaries of up to 24 national team players who will participate in the league.” The Canadian Soccer Association also will "sponsor 16 players and the Mexican federation will pay for eight." While "Gulati the soccer expert saw the league as a no-brainer, Gulati the economist concluded the private sector wouldn't be able to make it work without a giant public stimulus package.” The as-yet-unnamed league will “play a 22-game schedule running from March/April through early fall." Teams will be located in Boston, Chicago, DC, K.C., New Jersey, western New York, Portland and Seattle. While six teams "are located in cities that also have MLS teams," only the Portland club "will have official ties to the men's team" (L.A. TIMES, 11/25). Officials said that the new league “will try to avoid expensive venues.” In N.Y., Jack Bell noted discussions are “underway with several potential national sponsors and a television partner” (NYTIMES.com, 11/21).