Is Women's Pro Soccer on Life Support? WPS Owners Say "No!"

Phil AndrewsCorrespondent IMay 28, 2010

At the 2010 NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America) Convention in Philadelphia, there were nine teams involved in the WPS (Women’s Pro Soccer) college draft.

One of those teams, the L.A. Sol, ceased operation before their season ever had a chance to start. Now comes the disappointing news out of St. Louis, Missouri that the league has dwindled to only seven.

Seems likes the WPS entry from the Show Me State—St. Louis Athletica—was unable to show us how to handle its finances. As a result a funding crisis has left the team without the necessary funds to operate for the remainder of the 2010 WPS Season. The Athletica players will be available as free agents to other WPS teams as of Tuesday, June 1.

Just two weeks ago the league learned of a cash flow shortage at St. Louis Soccer United—which includes the owner of the Saint Louis Athletica and a St. Louis men’s team—that threatened the remainders of both teams’ seasons.

After a thorough and extensive review of the situation with interested parties, involving the League covering the shortfall for the Athletica’s last two player payrolls, the Athletica have folded their franchise.

WPS will remake the remaining schedule for the 2010 WPS season as a seven-team league—the same number that took part during the WPS inaugural season.

The fact that two teams have ceased operation before the midway point of the season sets off numerous red flags. My first thought of course, is that the league is in serious jeopardy of following in the footsteps of its now defunct predecessor WUSA (Women’s United Soccer League).

Philadelphia Independence Owner/CEO David Halstead was quick to shoot down my theory with the following statement.

"Philadelphia, and the other six WPS markets, have incredibly committed owners and teams that will remain focused on building strong businesses, and on all the exciting things happening on the field in this WPS season.

For the Independence, this Saint Louis situation changes nothing… we remain full steam ahead with an excellent road map for 2010 and the future. Our financial standing is solid, our business vision and structures are clear and certain, and our front office, coaches and players are at the top of their game.

We are hitting our stride and proud to be continually refining our processes and practices to ensure we capitalize on lessons learned, but don’t stray from the conservative 5-year plan and milestones set in motion a year ago.

In addition, our community connections, business partnerships and fan support have never been better. In practical terms, we have a terrific plan in place for success, all our bills are paid, we have money in the bank for our franchise needs and we have the best roster of players in the league."

As a matter of fact, Halstead and the remaining seven team owners will meet in Chicago next week to share plans to ensure the league does stay afloat and maintain their five-year plan for stability.  

On the business end of things aside, one has to feel for Athletica players Shannon Boxx, Aya Miyama, Christina DiMartino, and Cathrine Paaske-Sørensen, who actually started the season with the L.A. Sol before moving to St. Louis via the league dispersal draft.

With free agency waiting in the wings, these players will now have to adjust to their third team in six months.