Will the third women's professional soccer league finally be the charm in the United States?
A coalition made up of officials from the US, Canadian and Mexican Federations surely hope so.
The timing might just be right, following the US Women's National Team's gold medal-winning efforts in the 2012 Summer Olympics. And after the inroads made by the WUSA and WPS, the fan base built, and a new business model created for the league, the National Women's Professional Soccer League might just prove itself in the United States.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced that a U.S.-based professional women’s league will kick off in Spring 2013 with eight teams. The league will be administered by U.S. Soccer.
The Chicago Red Stars, created under the auspices of the old Women's Professional Soccer League, were one of 8 teams announced. The other markets include Boston, D C, Kansas City, NJ, Portland, Seattle and WNY. The Red Stars will have a 22 game league schedule, with 11 home matches.
The U.S. Soccer Federation, Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican Federation will fund the participation of a number of national team players in the league.
With the confirmation of the league name and logo, the National Women’s Soccer League has also launched its official pages on Facebook and Twitter. Fans are encouraged to like the league at facebook.com/NWSLsoccer and follow on Twitter @NWSL_soccer. A league website will be launched in the near future.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced on Nov. 29 that former U.S. Women’s National Team General Manager Cheryl Bailey had been named the Executive Director for the new league.
“We are working on finalizing a number of league items, but we now have a name and a logo that we think the fans will identify with and enjoy,” said Bailey. “This is a league we have to build from the bottom up and we have a group of dedicated owners and talented support staff at U.S. Soccer to keep this process moving in a positive direction while slowly growing the brand.”
Player reaction, after two leagues failed in the space of 10 years, was cautiously optimistic. Megan Rapinoe, formerly of the Chicago Red Stars , told the New York Times, “There’s a lot we don’t know so far, so it’s hard to say what we expect out of it,” Rapinoe said. “I think having a league and having an opportunity to play consistently, if it’s sustainable and it’s something that’s good for not only this team but the next 100 players, would be good. We need to know a lot more.”
The Red Stars announced that Rory Dames will continue to lead the Red Stars into the 2013 women's pro season. Under his leadership the Red Stars made the league finals in 2011 and 2012 and secured a US National Cup trophy this year. Stephanie Foster will be the team's First Assistant and Christian Lavers will serve as Second Assistant. Trae Manny will continue his role as Goalkeeper Coach.
U.S. Soccer will subsidize the salaries of up to 24 U.S. Women’s National Team players while the Canadian Soccer Association and Federation of Mexican Football will each do the same for up to 16 players.
Kate Margraf, another former Chicago Red Star who lives in Wisconsin, told the New York Times, that in the past, a popular women’s national team, featuring superstars like Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy and Brandy Chastain, had not translated into healthy attendance when professional leagues were formed.
But the current women’s team, Markgraf told the New York Times , might be able to break that barrier and allow a professional league to succeed.
“I think this is a team that has become bigger, the biggest women’s soccer team this country has ever had,” she said. “These players are known as a team, but also as individuals, so I think this is the best chance they’re going to have.”