Building a Professional Women’s Soccer League: Part 1 – The Basics

By:  Kaitlyn Kacsuta, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @KRKacsuta)

We have been down this road before.  Actually, we have been down this road twice before – once with the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), and more recently, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS).  Now, members of the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team are hoping to capitalize on the recent success and increased viewership from the 2011 World Cup and 2012 London Olympics to bring a women’s professional soccer league back to the States.

In August, it was announced that the remnants of the WPS, some other teams from the USL, and yet-to-be-named teams would come together to create a new league to begin play in the spring of 2013.  It is unclear where all of the teams will be located, but it is reported that there are eleven ownership groups prepared to finance ten teams next year.  U.S. Soccer President, Sunil Gulati, said at halftime of the October 23 U.S. Women’s National Team match against Germany, that an announcement regarding the newest incarnation of women’s professional soccer would be forthcoming.

Additionally, U.S. Soccer has thrown its hat onto the pitch to support this effort.  U.S. Soccer offered the possibility of financing some, or all, of the salaries of the Women’s National Team stars that they hope will play in the new league.  U.S. Soccer potentially paying its stars salaries is a huge commitment, one that could keep the league afloat longer than ever before.  It is unclear, though, how much U.S. Soccer can afford to pay all its players to join the league, or how it will afford to pay them year after year.  It is also unclear how this commitment will affect the Men’s National team.

Investor/operators from Major League Soccer appear poised to become involved in the ownership groups for the new women’s league.  In the past, MLS has largely stayed away its women’s counterpart.  In order for MLS investor/operators to participate in ownership groups for the women’s league, they must obtain MLS approval.

While the assist from U.S. Soccer makes this a new business plan for a women’s soccer league, in many ways it seems to be history repeating itself. The most significant issue is what, at the outset, appears to be the newly reincarnated league’s reliance on the standard professional sports ownership model – a model that has never been viable for soccer in the United States, for men or women.

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