This Saturday , April 10 , the Washington Freedom and Boston Breakers will kick-off the second consecutive season of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS).
Ironically the Freedom and Breakers were two of the original members of the now defunct Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). I mention this as a jump off point for what you are about to read.
You see, when the WPS and its founding members sat down to talk about reviving a women’s professional soccer league here in the United States, one of the first things they did was discuss how to avoid the mistakes that caused the demise of the old league.
During her kick-off week conference call yesterday, WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci talked about the need to foster a long lasting, sustainable league.
Based on last year’s inaugural success and the addition of two new teams this year in Philadelphia & Atlanta, it appears things are indeed headed in the right direction, thanks in part to the leagues flexible business model which has created a template for teams to be efficient and nimble.
Even during the current economic climate, the WPS last year created 200 jobs for players and coaches, another 100 front office jobs and another 300 part-time positions for game day staff.
In a way, the WPS business model is similar to that of Major League Soccer (MLS), but on a financially scaled down level; Set salary structures and the idea of finding smaller venues to play in, certainly can help curtail costs.
The phrase “soccer specific stadium” has become a big part of the MLS culture. Smaller, fan friendly stadiums with seating between the 18,500 to 30,000 ranges. There are currently nine such stadiums in MLS, with another seven on the architects table. That’s 16 Soccer specific stadiums for 18 teams.
Last year the WPS averaged 4600 fans a game and looking to increase that number this year by 10 percent. Early indications are that ticket sales are indeed up this season.
The fact that the Atlanta Beat will play their games in an 8,300 seat Soccer specific stadium this season, bodes well for the future of WPS, as a matter of fact on June 30, Atlanta will welcome this years all star game hosted by the Coast Guard.
FC Gold Pride is also in the process of renovating and retro-fitting Pioneer Stadium in San Francisco’s East Bay. Commissioner Antonucci calls it, “A perfect marriage of a university with a great little stadium and a team that now has a venue it can call home which is fan-friendly with many aspects in place for a terrific atmosphere.”
Ah yes, Atmosphere, another key ingredient. Antonucci said, “Our fans come first and we have to present them with an exciting, world class product on the field within the framework of an affordable and family friendly atmosphere.”
At the moment the WPS consists of eight teams, with players from 19 different countries. The hope is to add two more teams in 2011, and a total of 12 by 2012. Areas of expansion include the Rockies, Dallas, Denver, San Diego, and Vancouver.
There are also several groups interested in reviving the Los Angeles franchise which unfortunately was dissolved this year after just one season.
From this point on each and every WPS team will be looking to defend their turf and continue to fortify the foundation already in place.