Women's Pro Soccer: Will There Be A Fourth Season?

Members of the Western New York Flash congratulate teammate Yael Averbuch for her winning goal against the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS championship soccer game last August. (AP)
Western New York Flash players congratulate Yael Averbuch for her winning goal in August's championship game. With the league's future in doubt, it could be the last WPS title match. (AP)

If women's pro soccer fails again, nobody will be writing about greedy players or unrealistically optimistic team owners.

One of the guiding principles of the league when it began operations three years ago was that nobody should be paid much, since it was supposedly unreasonably high salaries that helped kill the WUSA in 2003, after only three seasons.

Nobody will be lamenting the fates of restaurant owners and hotel proprietors losing business. Neither women's league generated much in the way of economic impact.

But those who would explain the second failure of a women's pro soccer league in 10 years had better be preparing to write something.  WPS has lost six teams over the life of the league, and today it consists of just five…not enough to earn official sanction by the U.S. Soccer Federation without a waiver. The league's web site includes an invitation to inquire about owning a team.

Shortly before the WUSA went dark in 2003, former Boston Breakers General Manager Joe Cummings began talking about the public's responsibility to support the league. That sort of talk is beginning again. But games are supposed to be fun. Sports fans don't want to hear that they should buy tickets out of a sense of duty.

Like the WUSA before it, WPS has employed the world's best female soccer players. It's fan base is passionate. Yael Averbuch of the reigning champion Western New York Flash points that out in her Tuesday soccer blog for the New York Times when she recalls how a couple of youngsters cried with joy when she gave them her shinguards after the 2011 championship game.

Nobody who has attended a WPS game – or a WUSA game, for that matter – is likely to argue that the product hasn't been entertaining, or that that players haven't been accessible, or that the tickets haven't been reasonably priced. But what does it say about a league when the team with the best record in its inaugural season goes bust after the championship? Or when the team that wins the championship during year two ceases operations shortly thereafter? Or when the team that employed Abby Wambach and several other prominent national team players last year gets snatched away from their eccentric and allegedly abusive owner and closes up shop in October?

I guess the most optimistic observers of the WPS can hope all this is just growing pains, assuming the five-team league can somehow manage – very soon - to grow.

This program aired on November 30, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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