Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pro Women's soccer looking to return in 2007

Professional women's soccer is hoping to make a return to the USA in 2007. The group trying to make this happen is Women's Soccer Initiative Inc. (WSII). Tonya Antonucci, a former Stanford teammate of ex-national team captain Julie Foudy, heads this group. Antonucci also was an assistant coach at Stanford and Santa Clara and then spent 10 years working as an executive for Yahoo, the Internet giant.

The WSII was formed in December 2004; a year after the first US women's went bust.

The Women's United Soccer Association was formed in 2001 with high expectations. The country was still in awe of the World Cup success of 1999, but sadly that excitement faded. During the first year of the league the averaged attendance per game was 8,116, but by 2003, it had dropped to just 6,667. This resulted in the league losing an estimated in the $90 million during its three-year run. However, Antonucci feels things can be different this time around.

Here main focus should sound familiar to any MLS fans - Soccer Specific Stadiums (SSS).

Los Angeles, Dallas and Columbus, Ohio, already have these stadiums, and MLS commissioner Don Garber estimates that there could be as many as 10 by 2010. Garber said a successful women's league could also help his league. Antonucci agrees.

"We are engaged in considering and contemplating a partnership with Major League Soccer with respect with how our leagues can work together," Antonucci said.

If teams could share soccer-specific stadiums, it could reduce costs. Antonucci added that her group was talking to cities that have had WUSA teams. Besides Philadelphia, the WUSA franchises were in Boston; New York; Washington; Cary, N.C.; Atlanta; San Jose, Calif.; and San Diego.

It makes complete sense to place women's teams in the same market as men's teams, especially if they have a SSS. You have a built in fan base and you have a building designed for your sport. For any league to survive, it needs to make money, but your not going to make money if you have to rent a 60,000-seat football stadium for a 9,000-seat event.

I was a fan of the old WUSA and was sorry to see it go. Hopefully Antonucci and WSII will be able to resurrect it and give US soccer fans even more to cheer about. Who knows, maybe they could bring pro soccer back to San Jose.


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