WPS vs. the semipros

We’ve all lived ten days since I last posted about WPS and nine days since WPS owners accepted U.S. Soccer’s terms for Division I sanctioning, and yet the debate doesn’t seem to have changed.

One reason it’s still going: We’ve seen a return from hibernation from the blogger known as Fake Sigi. (He’s a bit different from the typical “Fake” or “Not” identities that parody Sepp Blatter, Dan Borislow, “soccerreform” and Grant Wahl in that we know his real name and he spends little time mimicking his namesake.)

I’ve seen Fake at the same table as Canadian journalist Duane Rollins, but they still get pretty annoyed with each other. Duane felt compelled to respond to Fake’s post as well as former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack, who has written one more post arguing directly with Duane and another that mentions the dispute in passing.

So far, though, we haven’t heard anything from the Whitecaps. They’re the ones called “vicious pimps” in Fake’s piece, so you’d think they’d be the most offended party.

But underneath the occasionally amusing insults, we have a fairly legitimate debate. Duane isn’t the only person suggesting that the top North American women’s league should follow more of a semipro model. Peter Wilt, who qualifies as a co-founder of WPS for his work with the Chicago Red Stars, put forth a detailed proposal and sparked an enlightening discussion. Bonnie D. Ford made similar points at espnW and drew a few hostile comments as well as the typical Internet gaggle of juvenile responses.

Here’s the strange part to me: Why are we having this discussion now?

Last year, when the Washington Freedom went up for sale, the Chicago Red Stars self-relegated and FC Gold Pride joined the ranks of the disappeared, the discussion would’ve been timely. This year, all six teams were willing to return — one was told “no thanks” for reasons other than finances. And for the first time in U.S. women’s history, a league was around to absorb a big bump after a big event — one that has much more impact than the World Cup has on MLS.

We’ll have to see how much of that impact carries over into 2012. But here’s the question I haven’t seen addressed: If five ownership groups are willing to gamble on that, why tell them you’d rather go ahead and start the transition to a semipro, scaled-back league now?

On Twitter, I compared the WPS-vs.-semipro debate to 1993, when U.S. Soccer chose between MLS, the existing APSL (A-League) and the rule-bending League One America proposal to leap into the Division I men’s soccer void. They opted for MLS, which was in many senses a leap of faith. It’s easy to say now that men’s soccer is popular in the USA and Canada today. It wasn’t so easy to predict such popularity back in 1993.

I got this response from @DCUWomen:

In 93, men were playing catch up to the world with huge $$ reward a draw… Women is dif biz, needs lower budgets, more teams.

I can see the lower budgets — no one, not even the free-spending Dan Borislow, is suggesting that WPS teams should start shelling out $3 million to $13 million per team like MLS teams did in 2011. But why more teams?

So that’s two questions: Why does WPS need more teams (more than the eight U.S. Soccer is demanding by 2014), and why should the powers that be insist on going semipro if at least eight owners are willing to play legitimate D1 ball by 2014? Anyone have answers?

This entry was posted in soccer and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to WPS vs. the semipros

  1. Diane says:

    I’d like some answers, too. I was a big advocate of not going backwards, my opinion is semi-pro is going backwards.

    Semi-pro was one way to go after WUSA, but they didn’t choose to go that route. Using hindsight and saying that’s the way to go now just tramples what’s been accomplished so far. If someone wants to start another league and give it a go, do it.

    I look forward to some good discussion..

  2. necron99 says:

    We keep hearing scrap WPS and go semi-pro from the same people. There are already two leagues that fit that model, WPSL and W-League. If that business model is the best, then it will win in the marketplace. The fans will come out to watch and support it, and the players will want to play there. What comes to my mind, is that they are trying to bring the highest level players back to their semi-pro league. Players that are receiving higher pay in the WPS. They do not want to compete with the WPS and are advocating it’s failure. As long as the owners are willing to invest and the players want to play in WPS, then it should continue. The players spoke out in support of the league that they would prefer to play in. I will continue buying season tickets.

Leave a Reply