It’s been a little over 24 hours since that disappointing text message appeared on my Blackberry.
“No way, are you kidding me?” I blurted to my 15-year-old son who was sitting next to me in the car at the time. (By the way I was at a stop light.)
“What is it dad?” he said.
I told him the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) had just discontinued operations of the Los Angeles Sol and were going to have a dispersal draft so that the leagues other eight teams could acquire the rights to the 19 players currently on the Sol Roster.
“Isn’t that the team with Marta on it?" he said.
Marta is the diminutive but outrageously talented Brazilian who just won an unprecedented fourth straight FIFA Female Player of the Year award.
She's the best women’s player in the world, playing on the best women’s league in the world, on a team that lost in the inaugural WPS Championship game to Sky Blue by a 1-0 result.
How was it possible that after just one very successful season, one of the league’s top teams was about to fade away into the L.A. smog?
The team’s original owners, which included the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the entertainment arm of the sports empire owned by the billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, tried to sell the team after its inaugural season.
In November, AEG gave the rights to the team back to the league, which took over the Sol’s operations. League officials were in talks with a potential buyer, but negotiations collapsed last weekend over the price.
Hey listen, my current credit score restricts me from even thinking about talking to the league about purchasing the team. I do, however, have an idea on a viable suitor for the Sol.
How about NBA superstar Kobe Bryant? Come on, Bryant is a huge Soccer fan having played the sport as a youngster while living in Italy. Heck, his NBA salary for this season alone is over $23 million. I’m sure he's always looking for a good investment.
What better investment than the 19 players Sol players left behind in a league trying to still find its legs?
Oh, did I mention Kobe and Marta are also best buds? Ok, they met each other earlier last year at a league photo shoot, but it was clear just from their body language they were fast becoming BFF’s (best friends forever).
Hey don’t laugh...does anyone else have a better idea?
Despite the loss of the Sol, the league will start its second season this spring with expansion teams in Philadelphia and Atlanta. The remaining owners are primarily entrepreneurs and small businessmen, more in keeping with the league’s grass-roots expansion strategy.
Question is, does the loss of one of its most popular teams after just one season show a chink in the under armor of league ownership?
“This is definitely not a chink in the armor,” Philadelphia Independence President/CEO David Halstead told me. “We all knew that AEG was there to help get Marta into the league and to establish a team in Los Angeles. We all knew there was a chance that AEG was in it for a one year commitment with a chance to leave after that, so the fact that AEG left was not a shock.”
Halstead also said, “Yes, it’s disappointing, but we must stick to the vision and milestones we have set for ourselves and forge ahead. We must continue on the course of selling tickets and getting ready for the season, we are looking forward to having a great year.”
Meanwhile, in Atlanta WPS Board Member and Atlanta Beat Chairman, T Fitz Johnson added, “All the team owners and members of the Board are confident that this setback will be quickly overcome by the exciting developments that the league has in store for the 2010 WPS Season.”
By the way, Johnson has reason to feel optimistic, after all the Sol’s loss could be Atlanta’s gain since the Beat have first dibs on Marta in next Thursday's dispersal draft. The question is, will Atlanta have the money to fit the leagues’ top player into their salary cap?
Even if Atlanta passes on Marta, don’t expect Philadelphia to take her either. Philly, who has the second pick in the dispersal draft, is not interested.
According to Halstead, “To take a player like Marta would mean we would have to overhaul our team and make changes, right now this is not the best thing, we are happy with what we have.”
No worries WPS fans, Marta and several of the Los Angeles players, including WPS All-Star Shannon Boxx, are signed to multi-year, guaranteed contracts, and are expected to play in league for the remainder of their contracts with other WPS teams following the dispersal draft.
In summary, it sucks that the Sol has set on Los Angeles, but as they say, the show must go on.
By the way, Kobe Bryant scored 24 points tonight as the Lakers beat the 76ers here in Philadelphia 99-91. No word after the game about his plans to purchase the Sol.