U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati talked with a few reporters yesterday (I had a conflict that involved cat-herding, I mean, youth soccer coaching) about the progress toward a new women’s soccer league.
The important takeaway wasn’t what was said. It was who said it.
If you read my last post on the matter, you know that there was some chatter suggesting that this new women’s soccer league was some sort of pipe dream of people who weren’t involved with U.S. Soccer. Gulati’s conference call made it clear: U.S. Soccer is at the table with the interested parties, with the most recent meeting taking place a few hours before the conference call. (That meeting did not include Dan Borislow or the WPSL, Jeff Kassouf reports. More about the WPSL shortly, but I’m not turning this post into another Borislow discussion thread.)
So what happened at the meeting, or what can we say so far? Let’s check Gulati’s comments: “quite positive,” “preliminary discussion with the National Team players,” “still being worked on” … in other words, nothing concrete.
But from U.S. Soccer’s perspective, things are changing. Support for a domestic women’s league has always seemed tepid. Now, Charles Boehm writes:
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, U.S. Soccer officials have concluded that the medium and long-term interests of the women’s program are best served by carefully fostering a pro or semipro league rather than maintaining a costly, and perhaps counterproductive, residency program for the core of the national team. Soccer Wire understands this to involve U.S. Soccer underwriting some or all of the cost of substantial salaries for established national teamers.
That’s not to say the new league suddenly has everyone following the same agenda. The WPSL, which tossed together an Elite League last year to include four pro teams (three formerly in WPS) and some of its top amateur sides, is still moving forward. The WPSL’s comment:
The WPSL Elite is still expanding for the upcoming 2012/13 season and expect a great season.
But the WPSL isn’t showing any outright hostility. Meanwhile, the USL is happy to move forward on multiple fronts.
USL continues to actively support the Federation’s leadership in the establishment of a viable women’s professional soccer league. Simultaneously, we remain focused on strengthening the W-League for the 2013 season which was the home to many of the continent’s top players in 2012.
Maybe it’s impossible to make everyone happy in the women’s soccer turf wars. A better word might be “content.”
The skeptics are out on Twitter, with former Sky Blue GM Gerry Marrone asking this:
— Gerry Marrone (@GerryMarrone) September 18, 2012
Then from the other end of the spectrum:
@alahue So lower plyr $$? Less mktg? You've been around, you know what I'm trying to get at. Why should plyrs and fans buy in this time?
— Natalie Smith (@NatalieLSmith) September 18, 2012
To which the Boston Breakers’ Lisa Cole replied:
— Lisa Cole (@Lcole22) September 18, 2012
The “better than nothing” argument (or, technically, the “better than the leagues that use college players and have to wrap up in July” argument) is hard to refute. Other leagues around the world have built on years of relative stability. Now they have enough cash to throw at U.S. players to lure them overseas. Lesson to be learned?