Women’s soccer in America suffered a major setback on Jan. 30 when the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) announced that the league was closing down for the 2012 season. The league, which began play in 2009, is the highest level of professional women’s soccer in North America. The WPS said that an expensive legal issue with a former franchise was the reason behind the decision.
The timing of the announcement shocked many since the American women’s team qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England just a couple of days earlier by going undefeated in the qualifying tournament. However, many of that team’s players will now be looking for a team to play with since they were members of WPS clubs.
The league has been facing trouble off the pitch since it began. The average attendance has dropped three years in a row, from 4,684 per game in its inaugural season to 3,535 last year. The league also launched with seven teams and there are now only five left, all based in the eastern states. The owner of Sky Blues FC, which is based in New Jersey, said the league made a good decision since it has to resolve all of its legal matters before it can carry on and grow. He added that it was a tough decision, but the right business one for the league.
The legal matter in question involves Dan Borislow, who is the owner of the MagicJack franchise that was based in Florida. Borislow brought a former franchise known as the Washington Freedom in 2011 and then moved it to Boca Raton. He then named it after his popular MagicJack communications company. However, Borislow didn’t exactly see eye to eye with the WPS and they clashed over several of the league’s rules.
Some of the issues they argued about were failing to pay the wages of some of his players and the size of the stadium in Boca Raton. The league decided in October 2011 to terminate the MagicJack franchise, which featured several American national team stars including striker Abby Wambach and goaltender Hope Solo. Borislow wasn’t happy with the decision to terminate his team and he then took the matter to court. The league then reinstated MagicJack as an exhibition team and said it could play seven games a season vs WPS competition. This has now led to the entire 2012 season now being called off.
Jennifer O’Sullivan of the WPS said that it’s up to the league to make sure that its players, fans, and partners get the best product available and that’s why the league is going to take its time to make sure the legal proceedings are handled properly before carrying on. She also said the league plans on resuming play for the 2013 season.
However, there are many soccer fans and insiders across the country who feel this could just be the beginning of the end for the struggling soccer league.