Bring out the cake, light the candles and warm up the singing voices! Women's Professional Soccer hit a milestone as it turned one on March 29, 2010.
"Kicking off one year ago today is a special memory for all of us involved in WPS," said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci on Monday. "We set out to build the world’s best soccer league for women and we accomplished that goal in year one."
The new league was resurrected out of the ashes of the WUSA, which failed nearly six years ago. The WPS kicked off its inaugural game one year ago, in a match between the Washington Freedom and the Los Angeles Sol at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA in front of 14,832 fans. The Sol won that match 2-0.
"I think one of my favorite moments from the Inaugural Match was simply walking out onto the field in front of my hometown fans," said Shannon Boxx, captain of the Los Angeles Sol during the 2009 season. "Having my family and friends in the stadium that day was really special to me. I knew I was a part of something great, and I just wanted to enjoy the moment as it happened."
Washington Freedom and US International forward Abby Wambach reflected on the inaugural match as well. "Just walking out for the game, the teams side-by-side, seeing all the fans and the hard work of so many people come together. It was a special moment for sure."
Former Sol goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who will now play for the Philadelphia Independence, summed up the feelings of playing in that Inaugural match. “The biggest thing for me was to be playing the game I love as a professional again. It felt as if my dream came true. I was proud to be playing for the WPS, I was proud to be an athlete, I was proud to be a woman and I was proud to step out on that field and be part of history."
During its debut season, the WPS averaged over 4,600 fans per game. Thanks to smaller venues, the crowd atmosphere was more electric and close-knit. The WPS created 200 jobs for players and coaches as well as 100 more for league and team staff off the field.
The 2009 WPS Championship game proved to be dramatic and enticing. Entering as the favorite to win, the Los Angeles Sol was the regular season champion. Their opponent was Sky Blue FC, based in New Jersey, who capped off a remarkable last-to-first climb through the regular and post-season by sweeping their two previous games in the 2009 WPS Playoffs. In the championship match, Sky Blue defeated Los Angeles 1-0 to win the first WPS Championship .
The 2010 WPS season kicks off the weekend of April 10-11. Eight teams and four WPS games will be played over one weekend for the first time. Two expansion franchises make their debut this season in the Atlanta Beat and the Philadelphia Independence.
The Los Angeles Sol announced that they discontinued their franchise in January 2010, and their roster was distributed throughout the WPS. A positive of this unfortunate news is that the rosters of the eight remaining teams are even stronger than they were before.
The 2009 league scoring leader, Marta, heads to FC Gold Pride while Los Angeles Sol captain and US International Shannon Boxx made the move to St. Louis Athletica.
"There will only be one inaugural match," added Antonucci, "But we look forward to many other key milestones in our league’s development as we continue to build on our first season.”
This story was taken from a press release and reworked by freelance writer Lauren Salter.