The Women’s Professional Soccer league will return for the 2011 season, but only with teams from Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, and Western New York. The FC Gold Pride – the 2010 champions – will be disbanded and the Chicago Red Stars have until December 15 to secure funding. The Los Angeles Sol and St. Louis Athletica folded in ’10.
Commissioner Tonya Antonucci stepped down after the 2010 season and management will fall to team representatives.
It’s a sad day for women’s soccer in the United States, as this news is the latest proof that the sport can’t find support or the advertising dollars that come along with fans. Hopefully the league can continue to survive, but that’s looking increasingly doubtful.
A couple tweets sum up the situation best:
From This Is American Soccer: “can’t be a good thing when as a league you send out PR emails confirming which teams will exist for next season.”
From AOL Fanhouse’s Brian Strauss: “Womens Soc comes full circle. 99 World Cup was supposed to b Eastern affair. Then they got ambitious. Now realistic–WPS to keep it regional”
The releases after the jump.
Teams Confirmed for 2011 WPS Season
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (November 16, 2010) – Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) will play its 2011 WPS Season with teams in Atlanta, Boston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, and Western New York following those teams satisfying the league’s reserve funding requirement. The Chicago Red Stars continue to seek investors to secure a place in the league’s 2011 season as a seventh team and have been granted until December 15 to do so.
“While it is disappointing to the league and its many enthusiastic fans, players, and partners that FC Gold Pride did not find the level of support it aimed for in its market, the continuing WPS teams have fully committed to the 2011 WPS season,” said WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas. “These past few weeks have been critical to ensuring the long-term health of the league, and we are pleased to be moving forward today with these six committed teams for the 2011 Season. We are hopeful that Chicago will also join those teams for 2011. We are looking forward to a great summer of WPS soccer next year with those teams in light of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cupâ„¢, which will give fans around the world the opportunity to see the exciting play of many WPS players on the sport’s biggest stage.”
Free agency officially opens at 12:01am ET on Wednesday, November 17 with players from FC Gold Pride now all becoming free agents. An overview of the season schedule, league calendar, 2011 WPS Playoff format and the 2011 WPS Draft will be announced in December.
“The history of sports has shown that in the early years of any league, teams come and go,” said Eileraas. “We are moving forward to start planning for 2011. We’ll have a terrific season next year with at least six committed teams and will continue to have the best soccer talent in the world playing throughout the spring and summer, culminating with an exciting WPS Playoffs like we’ve had the past two years.”
“Over the past few months, we have made tough decisions to create a more efficient and sustainable business,” said Thomas Hofstetter, member of the WPS Board of Governors and President, Sky Blue FC. “These changes have enabled us to build a solid foundation for growth over the coming years.”
Also on Tuesday, in lieu of the formal Expansion Draft, the Western New York franchise will have one day to claim up to six unprotected players from the Expansion Draft list announced by WPS on October 20. Upon approval of the selected players in accordance with the previous draft mechanics determined by the league, WNY will announce their picks in a separate release later this week. The players will be selected and approved prior to the opening of free agency.
FC GOLD PRIDE TO CLOSE OPERATIONS
HAYWARD, CA (November 16, 2010) – After two seasons of competition, 2010 WPS Champions, FC Gold Pride, Bay Area Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) team has announced the franchise will shut down operations effective immediately.
“We have exhausted our options, and it is with a heavy heart we close operations,” said Pride Owner Nancy NeSmith. “We are grateful to have been a part of Women’s Professional Soccer, and we wish all the teams and the league great success in 2011 and beyond.”
The Pride, which has operated as the lone west coast team since January of 2010, has cited the financial strain of consistent cross country travel, and diminished ticket sales as reasons leading to the decision to close the team.
“To our fans, sponsors, and the media that continually covered us – I applaud you for stepping up and supporting women’s professional soccer. The Pride brought a Championship to the Bay Area and participated in over 200 community events. We know that we leave a void, but hope in our short time, made a positive impact on our community” said Ilisa Kessler, FC Gold Pride General Manager.
Pride season seat holders will be contacted individually and issued refunds on any payments or deposits made toward 2011 season seats.