Abby Wambach. (Photo credit: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY Sports
In a unique arrangement, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Wednesday that it would start a new eight-team women's professional soccer league in the spring of 2013 in hopes of succeeding where two previous leagues failed.
U.S. Soccer will operate the front office and pay the salaries of 24 national team players - three per team. The soccer governing bodies from Canada and Mexico are also adding a bit of neighborly financial assistance. Canada, which will host the 2015 Women's World Cup, will pay the salaries of 16 of its national players; Mexico will support 12.
"We're trying to create an economic model that is sustainable," U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a conference call. "We're subsidizing the private sector to make the investments necessary by the private sector smaller."
The eight markets: Boston, Chicago, western New York, New Jersey, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland.
"In terms of a Canadian team, the door is open as we move forward," Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani said about the possibility of adding a team in his country.
Most details need to be finalized, such as the name of the league, stadiums, the investor/operators and player salaries. The season will run from March/April to September/October. Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of MLS, could also be involved, as was the case with the previous league, Gulati said. There are discussions with national sponsors and a TV sponsor, he said.
The first league, the Women's United Soccer Association, which featured legendary players such as Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy, lasted three seasons and folded in 2003. The next league, Women's Professional Soccer, ended in 2011 after three seasons.
The return of a pro league should help continue to foster the growth of the game as well as strengthen the three primary national teams involved. "Across the board, the best way long term to develop players is in a league format where they are challenged every day," Gulati said.
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