By Paul Martinez
Boca Raton (May 18, 2012) It's happened
again. After three seasons, a top tier women's soccer league in the United
States has given up the ghost, unable to continue after the twin blows of
a bad economy and a rogue owner.
The failure continues what is becoming
a pattern: three-years-and-out for top level women's soccer in the United
States. Previously, the Women's United Soccer Association played just three
seasons, from 2001-2003. And once again, a league folds immediately before
a major tournament, leaving national team players without the opportunity
to tune up. WUSA folded before the 2003 Women's World Cup, and WPS bows out
before the 2012 Olympics.
The league had been in financial
difficulty from the beginning, despite policies designed to prevent the wasteful
spending that had killed the first league. Though WUSA had received league-wide
support from major corporate sponsors such as Hyundai and McDonalds, WPS
had to rely on regional sponsors, either unable to provide enough support
- or as in the case of magicJack (sic) owner Dan Borislow,
too much control in exchange for support.
Following the first season, finalist
Los Angeles Sol folded, and though two East Coast teams entered, the WPS
was left with essentially regional status. Fans were left with serious doubts
about continuity after the mid-season demise of St. Louis Athletica in
Lacking nationwide clout, and with more
teams bowing out for 2012 leaving six in the league, the WPS asked the US
Soccer Federation for a league size waiver, in order to maintain the league's
top-tier status and enable it to go after investors. Unfortunately, one of
the investors entering the league was majicJack owner Dan Borislow. Having
purchased the storied but troubled Washington Freedom franchise, changing
the name to magicJack, and moving it to Boca Raton, he tried to mold the
league in his own image.
The league and owner spent more time
in court than on the field, draining resources that should have gone to
supporting the league. In the end the league did not have the resiliency
to survive that. Furthermore, only four teams (including magicJack) were
actually ready to play in 2012.
Since the announcement that the season
would be suspended back in January, plans had been afoot for the viable WPS
teams to save their seasons, even if it meant playing in the WPSL pro-am
league. The Boston Breakers, Western New York Flash, and Chicago Red Stars
join WPSL Chesapeake, Indiana, New England, New York Fury and Philadelphia
for the 2012 season.
magicJack was not invited, despite
possessing Abby Wambach, the leading goalscorer in the country.