Seven cities committed today; additional markets in consideration to host
teams featuring players from the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup and 2008
WSII CEO Tonya Antonucci named as new league's commissioner
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 4 /CNW/ -- A new North American women's professional
soccer league - under the temporary working title of Women's Soccer LLC - has
been formally established in the United States by seven investor groups, with
play beginning in the spring of 2009. Initial teams will be based in Boston,
Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis, and Washington
Though funding could have allowed for a 2008 start date, team owners
finalized the 2009 launch date based on a number of factors, including the
2007 FIFA World Cup and 2008 Olympic Games.
"Careful consideration was taken in timing the launch of the league, as
team owners are being judicious to ensure that this league is sustainable and
successful in the long run. It's a simple matter of preparation and
operational readiness," said Tonya Antonucci, newly named league commissioner.
"Also, we fully expect that the FIFA 2007 Women's World Cup, which will be
broadcast on ESPN, as well as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, broadcast on NBC
and its family of networks, will provide excellent exposure for our players
and sport as we build momentum toward opening day."
"We would very much have liked to start playing games in 2008 and in fact
several teams were able and ready to do so. However, as a league we are very
focused on how we fit into the overall sports landscape and two overwhelming
factors contributed to the decision to start playing in 2009," added Michael
Stoller, managing partner for Boston Women's Soccer, LLC, the ownership group
overseeing the women's professional soccer team in Boston, the Boston
Breakers. "The first was being sure that we have longevity in our league and
we overwhelmingly believe that starting in 2009 will assure the long term
success of each and every team.
"And most importantly our sport has two critical events during 2007 and
2008, namely the FIFA World Cup starting in several weeks and the Olympics
next summer. We did not want to impact the various national teams between
these two events and we did not want our league to take the focus away from
these two great events for our players or our fans."
A New Business Model
The seven ownership groups are comprised of the following: AEG L.A.
Women's Soccer, LLC; Boston Women's Soccer, LLC; Chicago Professional Women's
Soccer, LLC; Hendricks Investment Holdings, LLC (Washington D.C.); St. Louis
United Soccer, LLC; Sky Blue Women's Soccer, Inc. (New Jersey/New York); and
Sting Soccer Group LP (Dallas).
League operations will focus on cost-containment and shared
infrastructure efficiencies, as guided by a conservative business model
developed by not-for-profit Women's Soccer Initiative, Inc. (WSII) officials
under the legal counsel of global law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP. The league
will implement a comprehensive 18-month marketing and branding campaign
leading up to the 2009 launch date. The league has also entered into an
agreement with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), the commercial affiliate of
Major League Soccer, to serve as the league's exclusive representative for the
sale of national corporate sponsorship and consumer product licenses. Several
of the teams will play in MLS' new, soccer-specific stadiums. Team owners also
look forward to continuing their relationships with both the United Soccer
Leagues W-League and Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
"The integration of Sky Blue's amateur W-League team with our franchise
in the new professional league will set an example of how future US soccer
clubs will be structured," said Thomas Hofstetter, CEO of Extolution, Inc. and
lead investor for Sky Blue Women's Soccer, Inc. "With the 170,000
participants in New Jersey Youth Soccer Association (NJYSA) supporting the
team we can move forward with the integration from youth soccer, to amateur
level all the way up the professional ranks."
Antonucci, after two and a half years as CEO of WSII, will transition to
the role of league commissioner. Antonucci brings over a decade of sports
business experience to the effort, having spent more than seven years with
Yahoo, Inc., where she served as the director of Yahoo! Sports and
subsequently as general manager of Yahoo's partnership with FIFA and the
commercialization of the official, global web sites for the FIFA Men's and
Women's World Cups. Antonucci played soccer at Stanford University and,
following her college soccer career, spent years as assistant coach at both
Stanford and Santa Clara University.
"Tonya's vision, knowledge and tenacity have been the consistent guiding
forces that have allowed women's soccer to return to the professional sports
landscape," said Peter Wilt, president and CEO Chicago Professional Women's
Soccer, LLC. "Her background in soccer, marketing and business leadership make
her the ideal candidate to lead this league through its critical birth and
Added John Hendricks, WUSA founder and chairman Freedom Soccer and
Hendricks Investment Holdings LLC, "I have been very privileged to witness the
inspiring and relentless movement in this country to establish a premiere
women's professional soccer league in which the world's most elite and
talented players can compete to the delight of their many fans.
"In Tonya Antonucci this movement has a new leader who has given the
entire investment group the confidence that this new exciting new effort will
succeed and be sustained for generations to come. As the league's
commissioner, Tonya's passion for excellence, creativity, and integrity can
now be fully unleashed for the lasting benefit of women's professional
"I am thrilled and elated that a professional league will be coming back
in 2009. I know from my path to the national team, a league was the most
important component to getting me completely prepared to play at the next
level," said Abby Wambach, current star of the U.S. Women's National Team.
"What this means is that more women will have more opportunity to not only
play at the next level, but also fulfill life long dreams of being a
professional athlete. This is what may be most important; to make dreams come
true, and today, I feel like many women's dreams are coming true."
"Our players have been hoping this day would finally come," said Flo
Dyson, president of the Illinois Women's Soccer League (IWSL), which has
already signed on as a partner of the Chicago-based women's professional
soccer team. "Whereas the former league did not have any representation in
Chicago, now there will be three teams in the heart of the country. The girls
very much need and want the aspirational heroes that this league will create.
We are proud to be partners with the Chicago team from the outset and we
pledge our full support to the team and the league."
Women's Soccer in the United States
According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, soccer continues to experience
unprecedented growth in the United States -- particularly among America's
youth, with more than 3.2 million players registered with the U.S. Youth
Soccer Association and 4.5 million adults involved with the organization as
parents, coaches, referees, and administrators. In addition, up to 250,000
U.S. adults play soccer at the amateur level. Meanwhile, MLS teams are seeing
consistent increases in attendance and looking for ways to cater to their
ever-expanding fan base, including the construction of more soccer-specific
"The start of a women's professional league in 2009 is further evidence
of soccer's continued growth and potential in the United States," said MLS
Commissioner Don Garber. "We believe this will be the world's top league and
destination for elite women's professional soccer players. Major League Soccer
will make available resources, assets and facilities to the new women's
league, helping to ensure a strong start in 2009 with stability and
opportunity well into the future."
Kathy Carter, the executive vice president of SUM, added, "Soccer has a
unique and powerful ability to connect with people, and that will be even more
true with the relaunch of professional women's soccer in the United States.
SUM is committed to connecting this league and the great fan base with
partners in the corporate community."
"AEG's investment in the new professional women's league is in-line with
our company's commitment to growing soccer in the United States," said AEG
Executive Vice President, Marketing & International, Andrew Messick. "We
expect that the mix of strong and committed leadership on a league level, the
resources and experience of MLS and SUM, and an ownership group dedicated to
launching this league in the most professional manner will create a viable and
popular league. We can't wait until our Los Angeles franchise takes the field
at The Home Depot Center."
In 2001, shortly after the U.S. brought home the championship at the 1999
Women's World Cup, women's professional soccer experienced relative success
via the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), which suspended operations
in 2003. The new league, while honoring the WUSA's great playing talent and
devoted fan base, will embrace die-hard WUSA fans side-by-side with new soccer
audiences and mainstream sports fans who respect the best of the best
competing in sport on American soil.
The announcement of a new league comes prior to the start of the FIFA
Women's World Cup in China, Sept. 10-30. The National Team, ranked No. 1 in
the world and led by U.S. legends such as Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly,
left for China on Monday, August 27, following a send-off ceremony and 4-0
victory in a friendly match vs. Finland at the Home Depot Center in Carson,
Calif., on Saturday, August 25.
Also that Saturday, Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm -- both former stars of the
U.S. Women's National Team, two-time Olympic gold medalists, and two-time FIFA
World Cup champions -- were inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in
Oneonta, N.Y. This marks the first time in the history of the Hall that
female athletes were the sole inductees in the Player Category.
"For years, the U.S. has been home to some of the world's best female
soccer players. They and their international counterparts deserve to play on a
professional stage, which will make this league a coveted destination for
elite athletes from around the globe," said Antonucci.
The Future of Women's Soccer
"Much has changed since the WUSA took to the field in 2001. Most notably,
there has been rapid growth in the number of people in America who play soccer
and consider themselves soccer fans, thanks in large part to the collegiate
opportunities afforded by Title IX and the growing success of the U.S. men's
national team and MLS. Soccer's popularity has exploded in this country and a
women's league is a logical byproduct of the sport's ever-expanding fan base
and following," said Antonucci. "We also now have a range of digital and
online capabilities that allow us to put women's soccer front-and-center among
fans and sponsors. But ultimately, it all comes back to the fact that our
league will boast the world's greatest athletes playing the world's greatest
"At the same time, we'd be remiss in not examining the operations of the
WUSA and learning from their experiences, particularly in the realm of
operational efficiencies," added Antonucci. "The new league is taking every
step to ensure that this league is a permanent fixture on the nation's
professional sports landscape. We are not expecting overnight success, but are
committed to long-term growth and profitability."
For further information:
For further information: Jennifer Peters of Fleishman-Hillard Sports
Business, (314) 982-9167, cell, (314) 422-9305, firstname.lastname@example.org,
for Women's Soccer LLC