Women's Professional Soccer

Last updated

Women's Professional Soccer (WPS)
Women's Professional Soccer logo.png
CountryUnited States
Confederation CONCACAF (North America)
Number of teams7 (2009–2010)
6 (2011)
Level on pyramid1
Last champions Western New York Flash
TV partners Comcast SportsNet
Fox Soccer Channel
Fox Sports en Español
Local coverage
Website WomensProSoccer.com

Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) was the top level professional women's soccer league in the United States. It began play on March 29, 2009. The league was composed of seven teams for its first two seasons and fielded six teams for the 2011 season, with continued plans for future expansion. The WPS was the highest level in the United States soccer pyramid for the women's game.

Womens association football association football when played by women

Women's association football, usually known as women's football or women's soccer, is the most prominent team sport played by women around the globe. It is played at the professional level in numerous countries throughout the world and 176 national teams participate internationally.


On January 30, 2012, the league announced suspension of the 2012 season, citing several internal organization struggles as the primary cause. Some of these issues included an ongoing legal battle with magicJack owner Dan Borislow and the lack of resources invested into the league. On May 18, 2012 WPS announced the league folded and would not return in 2013. After the WPS folded, the National Women's Soccer League formed in 2013 and took WPS's place as the top professional women's soccer league. [1]

MagicJack, stylized with the first letter in lower case as magicJack, was an American professional soccer club based in Boca Raton, Florida. The team competed in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) for one season until legal challenges caused the team's owner, Dan Borislow, to be banned from the WPS, which folded in 2012.

Dan Borislow American entrepreneur, sports team owner and thoroughbred horse breeder

Daniel Marc Borislow was an American entrepreneur, sports team owner, inventor, and thoroughbred horse breeder. Borislow was born and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and attended Widener University. In 1989, he founded Tel-Save, Inc. to resell access to AT&T long-distance lines. Borislow took the company public in 1995, and two years later brokered a $100 million deal with AOL at the "Cafe Europa." In early 1998, Tel-Save had sales of $300 million and was valued by Wall Street investors at $2 billion. However, due to the financial strain of paying off the AOL deal, Tel-Save lost $221 million in 1999, and Borislow sold his stock for approximately $300 million and retired.

National Womens Soccer League Professional soccer league, highest level of womens soccer in the United States

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is a professional women's soccer league owned by the teams, and under a management contract with the United States Soccer Federation. At the top of the United States league system, it represents the sport's highest level in the United States. The NWSL was established in 2012 as a successor to Women's Professional Soccer (2007–2012), which was itself the successor to Women's United Soccer Association (2001–2003). The league began play in 2013 with eight teams, four of which were former members of Women's Professional Soccer. With the addition of three expansion teams in Houston (2014), Orlando (2016), Salt Lake City (2018) and the loss of FC Kansas City and Boston Breakers, it now has nine teams throughout the United States.



After the folding of Women's United Soccer Association, which played its third and final full season in 2003, WUSA Reorganization Committee was formed in September of that year. The committee led to the founding in November 2004 of the non-profit organization, Women's Soccer Initiative, Inc. (WSII), whose stated goal was "promoting and supporting all aspects of women's soccer in the United States", including the founding of a new professional league. [2] Attempts to relaunch WUSA in full fell through in 2004 (when the league's member teams played in two WUSA Festivals instead) and 2005. [3] In June 2006, WSII announced the relaunch of the league for the 2008 season. [4]

Womens United Soccer Association professional soccer league

The Women's United Soccer Association, often abbreviated to the WUSA, was the world's first women's soccer league in which all the players were paid as professionals. Founded in February 2000, the league began its first season in April 2001 with eight teams in the United States. The league suspended operations on September 15, 2003, shortly after the end of its third season, after making cumulative losses of around US$100 million.

In December 2006, the organization announced that it reached an agreement with six owner-operators for teams based in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington, DC, and a then-unnamed city. [5] Later, Boston and New York/New Jersey were announced as other markets to have teams. In September 2007, the launch was pushed back from Spring of 2008 to 2009 to avoid clashing with 2007 Women's World Cup and the 2008 Olympic Games and to ensure that all of the teams were fully prepared for long-term operations. [6]

On May 27, 2008, the league announced that it would expand to Philadelphia for the 2010 season, with the franchise likely sharing facilities with MLS's Philadelphia Union. Despite being the eighth named team, the league still considered adding an eighth team to play in the league's inaugural season. [7] An eighth team for the inaugural season was tentatively announced as being located in San Diego, [8] and was finalized later. Still, despite the extra time given to the original five cities for preparations, the Dallas franchise did not materialize, citing stadium issues. Thus the league began with seven teams.

Philadelphia Union association football club

The Philadelphia Union is an American professional soccer team based in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Union competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member club of the league's Eastern Conference. The club began play in 2010 as an expansion team of the league. The club plays their home matches at Talen Energy Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium located in Chester on the banks of the Delaware River. Jim Curtin is the Union's head coach.

WPS Major Trophy Winners
Regular Season
2009 Sky Blue FC Los Angeles Sol
2010 FC Gold Pride FC Gold Pride
2011 Western New York Flash Western New York Flash

The new name of the league, Women's Professional Soccer, was announced on January 17, 2008, along with the logo, which featured the silhouette of retired player Mia Hamm. [9]

Mia Hamm American association football player

Mariel Margaret Hamm-Garciaparra is an American retired professional soccer player, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion. Hailed as a soccer icon, she played as a forward for the United States women's national soccer team from 1987–2004. Hamm was the face of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), the first professional women's soccer league in the United States, where she played for the Washington Freedom from 2001–2003. She played college soccer for the North Carolina Tar Heels women's soccer team and helped the team win four consecutive NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship titles.

Building the league

Player allocation

Player allocation began on September 16, 2008, after the Beijing Olympics in August, when WPS announced the allocation of 21 US national team players, three players to each of the seven teams that began play in the 2009 season. [10] Most players were matched with teams they had some previous connection to, such as hometown, college, WUSA, or W-League affiliation. All of the allocated Americans played in the 2009 season except for Kate Markgraf, who was pregnant at the start of the season. A week later, the league held the 2008 WPS International Draft, in which the seven teams selected four international players each. [11] Four of the first five selections, first pick Formiga (Bay Area), Marta (#3, Los Angeles), Daniela (#4, St. Louis), and Cristiane (#5, Chicago) were Brazilian, [12] and a total of 10 Brazilian players were selected. England's Kelly Smith (#2, Boston) and Japan's Homare Sawa (#6, Washington), and Australia's Sarah Walsh rounded out the first round. [13] The draft order was based on a weighted ranking determined by a vote of league coaches following the U.S. women's national team allocation. A general draft was held in October, followed by a combine for college seniors and undrafted players in December, a post-combine draft in January, and local tryouts by individual teams in February. [14]

Inaugural season

Before the season began, WPS was only able to secure two sponsors, and most teams did not advertise much or get their rosters finalized until late in the preseason. During the season, though, WPS secured several more sponsors, and WPS announced the expansion to Atlanta as the ninth team for next season.

WPS's inaugural game was played to a crowd of over 14,000 fans at the Home Depot Center as the hosts Los Angeles Sol beat the Washington Freedom 2–0. The first season saw several issues occur, including an uneven schedule due to the odd number of teams (that the Sol took advantage of as they won the inaugural season), several season-ending injuries, two major trades, decisions from the WPS disciplinary committee and commissioner, and a Cinderella-run to the championship title (won by Sky Blue FC). Most teams considered the first season a moderate success, despite many losing more money than planned.

Growing pains

This success/optimism did not extend to the Sol, though, as after AEG failed to sell the team it was announced that the Sol would be disbanding. [15] As AEG had given the Sol back to the league, a dispersal draft was held to distribute the players to the remaining eight teams. This was not the case when the Saint Louis Athletica suddenly and unexpectedly ran into financial problems and folded [16] mid-May. The league schedule had to be re-done, and all of Athletica's players became free agents. Most were signed by the Atlanta Beat, who had only earned one point until then and ultimately finished the season at the bottom of the table.

The other expansion franchise, the Philadelphia Independence fared much better, finishing third on the season and ultimately losing the WPS Final to the incredibly dominant FC Gold Pride. Around the same time, WPS announced the addition of a western New York franchise for the 2011 season, spawning from the existing Buffalo Flash organization. [17] Despite these strong showings, overall attendance for 2010 was noticeably down from 2009, and one team (the Washington Freedom) made public mid-season that it was looking for new investors. Also, at the championship game, commissioner Tonya Antonucci announced she would step down, with Anne-Marie Eileraas taking leadership as the new WPS CEO.

More problems came to light early in the offseason. Four teams – FC Gold Pride, the Chicago Red Stars, the Boston Breakers, and Washington – all missed the payment deadline for a large up-front escrow meant to prevent what happened to St. Louis from happening again. Ultimately, the Gold Pride could not find the necessary money and folded. Chicago was given a 30-day extension but announced in December that they would not play in WPS in 2011, opting to regroup in the second-tier Women's Premier Soccer League. Washington and Boston ultimately were able to make their payments, [18] leaving six teams for the 2011 season.

National exposure

The beginning of the league's third season was marked by three overshadowing challenges: low attendance, problems with (ex-Freedom) magicJack owner Dan Borislow, [19] and an FC Gold Pride-like dominance by the Western New York Flash. While national team players were away at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, though, the Independence started an incredible streak that saw them temporarily overtake the Flash at the top of the table.

The success of the United States women's national soccer team at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup resulted in an upsurge in attendance league-wide and helped set a new all-time league attendance record for a single game at 15,504 during a match between the Western New York Flash and magicJack in Abby Wambach's hometown of Rochester, New York on July 20, 2011. [20] A new attendance record for a WPS final was also set just a few weeks later at Sahlen's Stadium again in Rochester when 10,461 fans filled the stadium on August 27, 2011 for the championship game between the Flash and the Philadelphia Independence. [21] [22] The final was also the closest-contested in the league's short history, with both teams scoring and ultimately going into penalty kicks, where the Flash bested the Independence 5–4 with a last-round save made by Ashlyn Harris.

The national exposure to women's soccer, and the upswing in attendance, sparked other groups interested in bringing teams to the WPS. The league had hoped to have ten teams for the 2012 season, [23] with most of the new groups potentially coming from the western half of the country, but ultimately no ownership groups were ready to join in time and instead aimed for the 2013 season. On November 20, 2011, the United States Soccer Federation gave WPS 15 days to field a sixth team, in order for the league to maintain its Division 1 status, after magicJack was terminated by the league. [24] magicJack would later be reinstated as an exhibition team, slated to play seven games each for the next two seasons against WPS teams. [25]

The league had sought [26] an extension of the league size waiver through the 2012 season, which would include the 2012 Summer Olympics, in hope of attracting more sponsors for the 2013 season. USSF granted sanctioning, with conditions requiring expansion, through 2014. [27]


On January 30, 2012, the league announced suspension of the 2012 season, citing several internal organization struggles as the primary cause. Some of these included an ongoing legal battle with ex-franchise owner Dan Borislow, and the lack of resources invested into the league. [28]

Prior to the formal announcement, the USSF showed reservation about renewing sanctioning for WPS, citing the sparsity and geographic concentration of WPS team as the main problem. (USSF requires professional, top-division leagues to have at least eight teams over at least three time zones.) [29] Ultimately, USSF granted WPS a waiver on this issue for the third time in WPS's history, on the conditions that WPS expands to six teams by 2013 and eight by 2014. [27]

On May 18, 2012 the WPS announced that the league had officially ceased operations. Its remaining teams were assimilated into the WPSL Elite League.


Business model

WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci said that unlike WUSA, which had higher expectations and employed a top-down model, WPS would take "a local, grass roots approach", and "a slow and steady growth type of approach", citing WUSA's losses of close to $100 million. [3] She said the new league would have a closer relationship with Major League Soccer, the top men's professional league in the United States, to cut costs on staff and facilities, and for marketing.

The team budgets for the inaugural season was $2.5 million. [30]

WPS Players Union

WPS players were represented by the Women’s Professional Soccer Players Union (WPSPU), an independent, democratic labor organization run by and for the players. The WPSPU was certified and recognized by the league on September 8, 2010 in Washington, DC. Jennifer Hitchon served as Executive Director and Robert H. Stropp of Mooney, Green, Baker & Saindon, PC, was General Counsel. [31] The players who made up the 2011–2012 WPSPU Executive Committee were: Eniola Aluko, Rachel Buehler, Allison Falk, Leslie Osborne, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn, Cat Whitehill, and Kristine Lilly (member emeritus). These players were responsible for advising the Executive Director, setting union priorities, approving union bargaining positions and proposals, and responding to WPS counter-proposals, among other activities. [32]

Media coverage

Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Español with Samuel Jacobo and Jorge Caamaño aired weekly Sunday night matches and the WPS All-Star Game. Fox Sports Net aired the semifinal and league championship contests. The national television contract was in effect through the 2011 season with an option for 2012. [33] Some local networks aired games.


TeamStadiumCityFoundedJoined WPSLeftNotes
Atlanta Beat KSU Soccer Stadium Kennesaw, Georgia 200920102012Dissolved
Boston Breakers Harvard Stadium Boston, Massachusetts 200820092012Joined WPSLE in 2012
Chicago Red Stars Toyota Park Bridgeview, Illinois 200720092011Joined WPSL in 2011
FC Gold Pride Pioneer Stadium Hayward, California 200820092011Dissolved
Los Angeles Sol Home Depot Center Carson, California 200720092010Dissolved
magicJack ^ FAU Soccer Field Boca Raton, Florida 200120092012Dissolved
Philadelphia Independence Leslie Quick Stadium Chester, Pennsylvania 200920102012Dissolved
Sky Blue FC Yurcak Field Piscataway Township, New Jersey 200820092012Joined NWSL in 2013
Saint Louis Athletica Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park Fenton, Missouri 200820092010Dissolved
Western New York Flash Sahlen's Stadium Rochester, New York 200820112012Joined WPSLE in 2012

^- Team was originally the Washington Freedom



WPS commissioners/CEOs

Tonya Antonucci (com.)2007–2010
Anne-Marie Eileraas (CEO)2010–2011
Jennifer O'Sullivan (CEO)2011–2012

WPS awards

WPS handed out seven end-of-year awards. Six of them dated to the league's formation, while the Rookie of the Year award was added in 2010.

See also

Related Research Articles

United States Soccer Federation official governing body of soccer in the United States

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States. With headquarters in Chicago, the FIFA member governs U.S. amateur and professional soccer, including the men's, women's, youth, beach soccer, futsal, and Paralympic national teams. U.S. Soccer sanctions referees and soccer tournaments for most soccer leagues in the United States. The U.S. Soccer Federation also administers and operates the U.S. Open Cup, which was first held in 1914.

Washington Freedom

Washington Freedom was an American professional soccer club based in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Germantown, Maryland, that participated in Women's Professional Soccer. The Freedom was founded in 2001 as a member of the defunct Women's United Soccer Association. Beginning in 2004, the Freedom played its home games at the Maryland SoccerPlex. In 2011, the team relocated to Boca Raton, Florida, and became magicJack.

Abby Wambach American soccer player

Mary Abigail Wambach is an American retired soccer player, coach, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup champion. A six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, Wambach was a regular on the U.S. women's national soccer team from 2003 to 2015, earning her first cap in 2001. As a forward, she currently stands as the highest all-time goal scorer for the national team and holds the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players with 184 goals. Wambach was awarded the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, becoming the first American woman to win the award in ten years. She was included on the 2015 Time 100 list as one of the most influential people in the world.

Shannon Boxx Soccer midfielder

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Chicago Red Stars soccer team and National Womens Soccer League franchise in Chicago, Illinois, USA

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Los Angeles Sol womens soccer team in Carson, California, United States

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FC Gold Pride association football club

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Western New York Flash professional soccer club in the United States

The Western New York Flash (WNYF) was an American professional soccer club based in Elma, New York that competed in the United Women's Soccer league. They have won league championships in four different leagues: the USL W-League in 2010, Women's Professional Soccer in 2011, Women's Premier Soccer League Elite in 2012, and the National Women's Soccer League in 2016. The team relocated to North Carolina in 2017 as the North Carolina Courage.

The 2010 WPS Dispersal Draft was a special draft for Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) after the Los Angeles Sol withdrew from the league. Players from the team were dispersed to the remaining seven teams in the league via the draft.

Women's Professional Soccer hands out a number of yearly awards. Six were awarded from the start in 2009 and one more, the Rookie of the year award, was added in 2010.

The 2011 Western New York Flash season was the team's inaugural and only season in the Women's Professional Soccer league, after competing as the Buffalo Flash in the USL W-League. The Western New York Flash won the league, then went on to win the 2011 WPS championship over the Philadelphia Independence.

Womens soccer in the United States association football practiced by women in the United States

Women's soccer in the United States has developed quite differently from men's soccer. Until the 1970s, organized women's soccer matches in the U.S. existed only on a limited basis. The U.S. is now regarded as one of the top countries in the world for women's soccer, and FIFA ranked its national team #1 in the world after its back-to-back Women's World Cup victory in 2015 and 2019.

Nikki Washington football player and coach

Madeline Nicole "Nikki" Washington is an American retired professional soccer forward and right midfielder who last played for Boston Breakers in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and is currently an assistant coach for the women's soccer team at the University of Washington. She previously played for Chicago Red Stars, Boston Breakers, and magicJack in Women's Professional Soccer as well as the Portland Thorns FC and Houston Dash in the NWSL. She captained the United States team that won the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup and played for the under-23 team.

The 2011 Philadelphia Independence season was the team's second and final season in the Women's Professional Soccer league, and its final season as a team.

The 2009 Sky Blue FC season was the first season for Sky Blue FC in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS). In the league's inaugural season, the club finished fourth in the regular season with 26 points, qualifying for the playoffs. After victories over the Washington Freedom and Saint Louis Athletica, Sky Blue FC defeated the Los Angeles Sol, the top team in the regular season, in the championship match to become the first WPS champions.

The 2009 season is Washington Freedom's first season competing in the Women's Professional Soccer league, the top division of women's soccer in the United States, and seventh competitive season. The team was coached by Jim Gabarra who has led the team since its founding in 2001.


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