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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 16, 2008

U.S. players allocated to women's pro league

NEW YORK -- U.S. national team players received phone calls Monday night informing them of which club each would join in the new Women's Professional Soccer league. Then they sat down for dinner together. "We were kind of afraid to see one another, because we were certain somebody would not be happy," goalie Hope Solo said. "That wasn't the case at all. People were having glasses of champagne and cheering, and the competition had already begun." The WPS announced the allocation of its biggest stars Tuesday, with each of the seven squads receiving three players. The league is scheduled to debut in April. Solo will suit up for St. Louis -- she donned a Cardinals cap as she was introduced. Kristine Lilly, the second-leading scorer in the sport's history, will play for Boston. Offensive star Abby Wambach heads to Washington. The league will also have franchises in the Bay Area, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey. A contract between the WPS and the national team players association has yet to be completed, commissioner Tonya Antonucci said. Antonucci had said in July that she expected to have the agreement finalized by now. Some small details remain to be resolved, she said Tuesday. Two-time NBA MVP and soccer buff Steve Nash, a part-owner in the league, helped Antonucci announce which players will play where. "I think it's only time that we had the best women in the world playing here in America, representing themselves, representing the game, representing us at the highest level, setting the standard for women's soccer around the world," Nash said. The WPS seeks to succeed where the Women's United Soccer Association failed. WUSA was launched after the success of the 1999 World Cup but folded in 2003. "One of the biggest lessons learned was to be fiscally disciplined on the business side and have an eye toward starting out realistically and growing it and having a growth plan without trying to be at the end of your growth plan immediately," Antonucci said. WUSA had the star power of Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett and Lilly. The 37-year-old Lilly is the only one still playing. She'll return to the field after taking off 2008 to have a baby. Can she add one lasting pro league to her long list of accomplishments that includes five World Cups and three Olympics? "It's important because I think I've been a part of so much in soccer, from the first World Cup, the first Olympics, a part of the WUSA, now a part of this," Lilly said, as she held 2-month-old daughter Sidney Marie. "Now to bring it home with all these new faces to start here is great." Wambach, who broke her leg before the Olympics, expects to be ready for the league's first game. Walking without an apparent limp Tuesday, she's able to swim and ride a bike. By late January or early February, she hopes to be playing again. First she needs to build back the 15 to 20 pounds of muscle she lost after surgery. The underdog U.S. team won in Beijing without her. "The league was going to happen regardless, so whatever kind of publicity and promotion we can piggyback off of from the gold medal that they won, we're going to take it," Wambach said. "I know that they're going to use it, because this league is so important to all of us."

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