THE POWERS that be within the U.S. Soccer Federation have not decided to pull the plug just yet on Women's Professional Soccer. That could mean a positive step in what has been an otherwise stressful week.
The WPS, the premier outfit for women's soccer in America, is in danger of losing its Division I professional status or even folding after its annual report showed the league has dwindled from six teams to five. That number is well below the minimum of eight to be granted what the USSF calls Division I status. WPS was given a 1-year waiver to increase its franchise count in 2011, but while the league has seen steady numbers in attendance, television ratings and even potential suitors for expansion into different markets, U.S. Soccer isn't sold on its ability to develop and sustain new markets.
WPS commissioner Jennifer O'Sullivan met Tuesday evening with members of U.S. Soccer's Professional League Task Force in Chicago. The result? More talks, which may mean that additional markets are forthcoming or that the ongoing restructuring of WPS' business plan (which currently varies among the five franchises) appears viable for sustainable growth.
Early yesterday, U.S. Soccer released the following statement:
"U.S. Soccer's Professional League Task Force and members of the WPS had detailed discussions on Tuesday evening in Chicago regarding the sanctioning of the league for 2012. There will be additional discussions later this week before a final recommendation is provided to the U.S. Soccer board of directors."
A source close to the proceedings told the Daily News that the meetings were "amicable" and that a decision could be made as early as Friday.
"These things tend to go longer than everyone expected and [WPS] can ask for a bit more time," said the source. "There are a lot of different ideas swirling around, but at this point that's really all they are."
One shining beacon has to be that WPS is attracting potential investors in five different markets; the most concrete one would be a sixth team in Connecticut.
Philadelphia Independence owner David Halstead, who also heads WPS' expansion committee, also mentioned Michigan, Texas, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles as places where other teams could pop up. It's all about progressive expansion, and Halstead urges U.S. Soccer to realize that doesn't come overnight.
"I could go out right now and find investors to bring teams in, investors with deep pockets but know zero about soccer," Halstead said. "How long do you think those teams would stick around? If we are thinking long-term, you can't rush this and demand immediate growth. The goal and mission of the WPS is to draw the strongest players in the world and have them play their careers here. We [as owners] are thinking long-term, too."
Union ink forward
The Union announced yesterday it reached a deal with Costa Rican forward Josue Martinez. Pending approval of his international status via MLS and a P-1 work visa, Martinez is tabbed to be a legit threat up top with striker Sebastien Le Toux.
Martinez, 21, was acquired from Club Deportivo Saprissa of the Costa Rican first division. He scored 18 goals in 43 appearances, helping Saprissa win the league title in 2010. He also has 11 caps (appearances) with the Costa Rican national team, scoring two goals.
"We believe that he will develop as a full-time international player and will prove his quality during MLS seasons with the Philadelphia Union," Union manager Peter Nowak said via text message.