Why Can’t a Professional Women’s Soccer League be Successful in the United States?

This morning I posted a question on our Soccer Classroom Facebook page asking, “Who is more entertaining, the US Men’s National Team or the Women?”  And not to my surprise, out of the 25 people who commented, all but one said the women.  The result can probably be credited to the dramatic Olympic Semifinal game vs Canada, in which they came back from being down on three separate occasions, finally scoring the game winner in the 122nd minute.  The USA Women’s team have done this over and over, continuing to prove their belief in themselves and their “Never Say Die” attitudes.  And I think that’s why so many of you voted for the women.  Had I asked this question after Landon Donovan scored his memorable goal vs Algeria in the 2010 World Cup to advance to the Quarterfinals, I think we might have a different response.  Who remembers this goal (still gives me chills)?

With so many of you believing that the women are much more entertaining, it got me thinking…why has the MLS been so successful, yet, the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) has failed? 

Before we get into discussion let’s get a brief history lesson on the WPS.  The WPS started shortly after the 2008 Summer Olympics on March 29, 2009.   The WPS consisted of just seven teams in the first two seasons, dropping to just six teams in 2011.  In the beginning of their first season, the WPS was only able to secure two sponsors, although they were able to acquire more as the season went on.  At the end of the season, they announced the expansion of their 9th team in the league, which would be in Atlanta.  Growth in the WPS looked promising, even though most teams lost money.

The league continued to have its ups and down as teams folded and franchises were added.  Two of the most significant teams that withdrew were the Los Angles Sol (who AEG failed to sell) and the Saint Louis Athletica (who ran into financial issues).  The players on these teams were thrown into a supplemental draft and distributed throughout the league.  The league responded by adding the Philadelphia Independence and the Buffalo Flash.

Overall attendance began to drop from the 2009 to the 2010 season and the Washington Freedom publicly addressed that it was looking for new investors.  The downward spiral began when four teams (FC Gold Pride, Chicago Red Stars, Boston Breakers, and Washington Freedom) missed their payment deadlines for a large up-front escrow payment (which was implemented to prevent another St. Louis Athletica issue).  In the end, the Gold Pride folded, Chicago was given a 30-day extension but announced it would not be playing in the 2011 season and Washington and Boston were able to make their payments, leaving just six teams left for the 2011 season (back to where they started).

As a result of the success of the 2011 USA Women’s National Team in the World Cup, this gave the WPS national exposure.  The league hoped to have 10 teams for the 2012 season.  However, none of the western half of the country’s teams had any owners that were ready to join at the current time, rather looking to invest in the 2012 season.  Therefore, on November 20, 2011, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) gave the WPS 15 days to come up with a 6th team for the league in order for it to maintain “Division 1” status (since magicJack was terminated from the league).

On January 30, 2012, the WPS announced the suspension of the 2012 season, stating the reason as “internal organization struggles.”  And on May 18, 2012, the WPS announced that the league had officially folded, electing to demote the remaining teams into the pro-am league, the WPSL Elite League.

According to the Soccer Classroom followers, they enjoy watching the USWNT over the USMNT.  Their reasoning was because there is less diving and the women have had more success in the bigger tournaments; amongst others.  So why is it that the women can’t seem to develop a successful Professional League in the United States?  Do you think that even with proper investors and better management/marketing, people would be interested in watching Professional Women’s Soccer in the United States?  Why and why not?   


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Tomo is your prototypical “soccer guy.” A four year starter at Shippensburg University, Tomo owned the defensive midfield with his awesome vision of the game and hard-nosed style of play. An avid Chelsea fan, he’s left scratching his head wondering what owner Roman Abramovich will rotate through Stamford Bridge. Tomo also blogs about Chelsea and the English Premier League on his site TomoTimes.

2 thoughts on “Why Can’t a Professional Women’s Soccer League be Successful in the United States?”

  1. Why don’t you ever talk about Mexican futbol and how Mexican players are crossing the us border to join a paid team, then sending their paycheck back to their family via night owls, so that the rest of the family can try and get residency in the us?


    Comment by Mark Thompson
    August 15, 2012

    Sammy, do you have an article related to this? We have not heard about this before.


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