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Red Stars Tue Aug 14 2012

Red Stars Lead Push For New Women's Soccer League

red stars.jpgAfter watching the U.S. Women's National Team win soccer gold in London, you might be wondering whatever happened to professional women's soccer here in Chicago.

Despite several twists and turns in recent years, the Red Stars have kept that torch aflame, reaching the WPSL Elite championship final a few weeks ago before losing on penalty kicks.

But starting next year, they're on the move again, teaming up with fellow former WPS clubs Boston and New Jersey to lead another new league with plans for eight teams.

It will be the third attempt at creating a sustainable women's professional league, following three-season stints by the WUSA (2001-2003) and WPS (2009-2011).

Obviously, club owners and those looking for owners to pony up for clubs are hoping to capitalize on the excitement of the Women's National Team, and they'll have some time to do that. U.S. Soccer will surely take the WNT on a "victory tour", announcing two dates already in Rochester (soccer hotbed and Abby Wambach's hometown) and Carson, California (home base of the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams).

It's as good a time as any to try again, as most if not all of the U.S. national team will join teams in this new professional league. Back in 2009, the Red Stars started play in the WPS with Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd--the same Carli Lloyd who buried both goals in the gold medal match against Japan. The world's best female player, Brazil's Marta, was playing in WPS as well prior to its folding, meaning it's not just American players looking to play here.

The league will have plenty of talent if it gets off the ground; the question is if it can get over this three-year hump without another major international tournament for, you guessed it: three years. The most recent iteration of women's professional soccer was built upon U.S. success in the 2008 World Cup and made it through two years, where it then got a small boom in popularity in the wake of the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. But despite that popularity, they still couldn't carry it through to the 2012 season--a grave sign for the next version.

It must be noted that almost all of the bad news surrounding WPS last year stemmed from one owner, whose treatment of players and resulting lawsuit against the league when they tried to kick him out certainly used up tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and an undisclosed settlement. ESPN's Beau Dure has a great rundown of the saga.

But it also can't be forgotten that WPS clubs were still far from being profitable. There's only so much deep-pocketed owners will take, no matter how much they might honestly care about developing the women's game in the U.S.

Who knows where we'll be in three, six, eight months, but I believe they'll get a small (six-eight teams, and I'd lean closer to six) league together. They've got most of the logistical hurdles of setting up a league out of the way with prior experiences, and though travel expenses might rise, I believe they've got a great plan in reaching out to the Pacific Northwest. Folks love their soccer up there, from amateur levels on to the recently turned professional Portland Timbers and immensely successful Seattle Sounders.

The questions will come in 2014, when it's been two years since the WNT has made national noise and owners are still losing money. Will families still take their daughters to games that don't contain Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan or Hope Solo? For the sake of the Women's National Team, we'd all better hope so, or better yet, go ourselves.

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StarCityFan / August 15, 2012 10:26 AM

Don't think the World Cup had a whole lot to do with kicking off WPS, considering that the Women's was in 2007, and the US didn't do too well. I think it was more just a matter of taking that long to pick up the pieces from the WUSA and put them back together again.

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