Author Topic: US Women's Professional Soccer league – a viewer's guide  (Read 1142 times)

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US Women's Professional Soccer league – a viewer's guide
« on: April 03, 2009, 12:35:32 PM »
As Kelly Smith and a number of England's female football stars follow in David Beckham's footsteps by joining professional teams in America, Telegraph Sport tells you all you need to know about the new Women's Professional Soccer league in the US.

By Oliver Brown
Last Updated: 11:11AM BST 03 Apr 2009

The beautiful game: Los Angeles Pride's Marta from Brazil was the first draft pick for the Women's Professional Soccer league Photo: AP

What is it?

Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) is an attempt to match the steady recent growth of Major League Soccer, thanks to the David Beckham effect, with a women's pro league.

The fervour around women's soccer in the United States is not what it was in 1999 – when euphoria at the national team's World Cup win on home soil was captured by Brandi Chastain's sports bra-baring celebration – but there are cautious hopes that the seven-team, five-month-long league can eclipse the achievements of its forerunner, the Women's United Soccer Association, which folded in 2003.

It is likely that the enticements of the league will significantly limit the development of women's football in this country, which cannot compete financially, despite the Football Association's belated offer to England players of central contracts worth £16,000 a year.

The teams

Boston Breakers (Boston, Massachusetts)

Chicago Red Stars (Bridgeview, Illinois)

FC Gold Pride (Santa Clara, California)

Los Angeles Pride (Carson, California)

St Louis Athletica (Edwardsville, Illinois)

Sky Blue FC (Piscataway, New Jersey)

Washington Blue (Germantown, Maryland)

Expansion to include teams representing Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia is mooted for next season.

The players

Kelly Smith, the outstanding English player of her generation, escaped Arsenal Ladies to become a striker for Boston on a four-year contract.

Smith claimed her motivation was not money but to prolong her career. A reflection of her status is that she was the second overall pick in last September's WPS draft, behind only Brazil's Formiga (Gold Pride).

Smith is part of an exodus of England internationals from the Women's Premier League to WPS: Karen Carney and Alex Scott, two of her Arsenal team-mates, have joined Chicago and Boston respectively, while Chelsea's Eni Aluko and Anita Asante have signed for St Louis and Sky Blue.

Three of the first five draft picks hail from Brazil, runners-up to Germany in the last World Cup: Marta (Los Angeles), Daniela (St Louis) and Cristiane (Chicago).

The other crucial ingredients in the mix are the 21 US national team players, with three allocated to each of the seven teams. Heather O'Reilly (New Jersey) and Shannon Boxx (LA) are arguably the most recognisable to a British audience, due to their length of service at national level.

The money

WUSA gobbled up a prohibitive $100 million (£68 million) in its three years of operation, but for the latest innovation Tonya Antonucci, the WPS commissioner, has pledged to keep costs down. Indeed, the average salary for a player is a relatively meagre $32,000 (£21,800), even for one of Smith's calibre, and players are allowed to supplement this income – for example, by holding down another job.

It compares starkly with the extravagance of WUSA, which paid stars like American Mia Hamm $92,000 (£62,700), and that was seven years ago.

The skirts

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, infamously claimed that the way to make women's soccer more popular was to make the players wear tighter shorts. The official Puma kit for WPS, supposed to provide "fashion, flair and femininity", goes one better by incorporating an optional 'wrap' (a miniskirt in common parlance).

The practicalities were questioned by goalkeeper Hope Solo (St Louis), who said: "I'm not sure what the skirt will look like when I go for a dive."

The crowds

Do not expect WPS to repeat WUSA's mistake of staging matches in cavernous, and thus largely empty stadiums.

The now-defunct Washington Freedom played at the 50,000-seater RFK Stadium, former home of the National Football League's Washington Redskins, whereas the reconstituted Washington Blue will play at a much more intimate 5,200-seat arena in Maryland.

The largest venue on the circuit is the Home Depot Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, a place that transcends its humdrum surrounds by the periodic presence of Beckham.

How to follow it

You can watch weekly Sunday night matches and the WPS All-Star Game on the Fox Soccer Channel (for subscription information, visit The semi-finals and league championship game can be seen on Fox Sports Net (