Seven-team women's league set to launch in '09
Abby Wambach and her U.S. teammates will have a new pro soccer league to look forward to after the Women's World Cup and the Olympics. Its launch has been bumped back a year to 2009, when the seven-team pro Women's Soccer LLC is set to begin in the spring, league commissioner Tonya Antonucci announced Tuesday. Teams will be based in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis and Washington. Several teams are expected to play in MLS soccer-specific stadiums. "Careful consideration was taken in timing the launch of the league, as team owners are being judicious to ensure that this league is sustainable and successful in the long run," Antonucci said. "It's a simple matter of preparation and operational readiness." The league follows the failed Women's United Soccer Association, which launched after the success of the 1999 Women's World Cup. Wambach played for the Washington Freedom, but the league folded in 2003 after three seasons even though the stars of the 1999 U.S. team played in the WUSA. "A league was the most important component to getting me completely prepared to play at the next level," said Wambach, the leading scorer for the U.S. women's national team. "What this means is that more women will have more opportunity to not only play at the next level but also fulfill lifelong dreams of being a professional athlete." The investors decided to wait to start the new venture until after this month's Women's World Cup in China and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "We did not want to impact the various national teams between these two events and we did not want our league to take the focus away from these two great events for our players or our fans," said Michael Stoller, managing partner for Boston Women's Soccer, the ownership group of the Boston Breakers. The seven ownership groups are AEG L.A. Women's Soccer; Boston Women's Soccer; Chicago Professional Women's Soccer; Hendricks Investment Holdings (Washington); St. Louis United Soccer; Sky Blue Women's Soccer (New Jersey/New York); and Sting Soccer Group (Dallas). Phil Anschutz, the owner of the MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy, is the lead investor of AEG L.A. Women's Soccer. Anschutz, of course, spent millions recently to bring David Beckham to his MLS team. The women's league intends to partner with Soccer United Marketing, which is affiliated with MLS, for sponsorship and marketing. The league plans to announce a new name in the coming months, and more teams may be added. As CEO of the Women's Soccer Initiative, Antonucci worked the past three years planning the league. "For years, the U.S. has been home to some of the world's best female soccer players," Antonucci said. "They and their international counterparts deserve to play on a professional stage." Antonucci said the financial lessons from WUSA have been noted, and investors are taking the long view. " The new league is taking every step to ensure that this league is a permanent fixture on the nation's professional sports landscape," she said. "We are not expecting overnight success but are committed to long-term growth and profitability."