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Professional Aug 09, 2012

New women’s professional soccer league in final stages of formation

At least four teams are committed to forming a new professional women’s soccer league that plans to start up in spring 2013, according to an announcement from the Boston Breakers.

The Breakers, Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC, from the former Women’s Professional Soccer league, along with a newly-formed team in Seattle, have committed to playing in the new league. The announcement posted to the Boston Breakers website states that four additional teams, including one on the West Coast, “are finalizing their participation in the league.”

“All these teams are committed to playing with and against each other starting in 2013 and to working out the final details to allow a sustainable professional league for women’s soccer in the U.S.,” said Michael Stoller, managing partner of the Boston Breakers.  “We want to emphasize this is not a competitor to any of the existing leagues, but rather this is a significant step up in the competitive level and professional standards and we expect to establish a natural relationship to allow teams to enter this new league and perhaps to fall back (self-relegate) to their prior league if they need a break from the higher spending and competitive requirements.”

The announcement states that much of the groundwork has been done to establish minimum standards, the length of the season, player requirements and conferences. The additional teams, according to the announcement, are expected to join the as-yet-unnamed-league in the next two months as discussions continue with several other ownership groups.

This league is being created, according to the announcement, by ownership groups within the existing leagues on the basis of understanding the successes and failures of the first two attempts at a professional league in America. A main goal for the league is to provide the best U.S. players with the ability to develop and train at a high level on a consistent basis. The team owners are driving this effort and are working to make sure the league will help prepare those players for international competition with the U.S. WNT.

The founders of the new league, the announcement states, have been working with the United Soccer Leagues and the Women’s Premier Soccer League to attempt to solidify the relationship and roles of the existing women’s leagues with the new league and participation for all teams that elect to meet the minimum standards. This is an acknowledgement on the long-term success and sustainability of semi-pro women’s soccer leagues in this country.

“We have supported women’s soccer for decades and are very proud of our creation of the WPSL Elite League this year and the role we have been able to play in bringing this new league together for 2013.  We are committed to easy movement for teams between WPSL and this new league and we will also provide a place for reserve teams to play,” said Jerry Zanelli, founder and president of the WPSL.  “Many details remain to be worked out but we will support the new league in its growth and are happy to see an unambiguous future for women’s professional soccer in the United States.”

“We are excited to bring the highest level of women’s soccer to Seattle,” said Bill Predmore, president of Seattle-based digital marketing agency, POP, and the leader of the ownership group for the new Seattle club. “Seattle has a long history of enthusiastic support for professional soccer, which we hope will provide us with a strong base of fans for the new women’s club.”

Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler said one of the goals of the new league is to be inclusive, not exclusive.

“If teams want to join and can meet the minimum standards, then we welcome them,” Whisler said. “This league is for the players that want to play and be on the WNT radar, the fans that continue to support us despite our false starts in the past, and the teams that are committed to elite women’s soccer.  We have been very happy with the WPSL Elite season that we just completed and cannot thank Jerry enough for his providing so many teams the place to play this year on such short notice and we see this as a natural extension of that model to a more permanent league and infrastructure.”

In the near future, there will be more detailed discussions with U.S. Soccer on the proper sanctioning process, the announcement states.