The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
The Sounders Women have called a press conference for this coming Tuesday October 9 to discuss recent developments in women’s pro soccer in the USA.
The media alert reads: ”On Tuesday, October 9, the Seattle Sounders Women will host a press conference / Q&A with Sounders Women ownership and local media to answer questions regarding women’s professional soccer in the United States, the Sounders Women stance and situation within that process, and organizational developments within the Sounders Women. Answering questions for media will be Lane Smith. Lane is a Co-Owner & the CEO of the Seattle Sounders Women and Sounders FC U-23.”
There have been plenty of recent discussions in regards to the return of professional women’s soccer in 2013. Perhaps the biggest nugget of hope was suggested by US Soccer President Sunil Gulati in an October 5 LA Times article, where he says discussions include US Soccer taking a stronger role and perhaps even funding the league.
“What we’re looking at is a different sort of participation than we’ve had in the past,” said Gulati, an economics instructor at Columbia University. “There is every possibility that we would have a more active role in the management and funding of this league. What form that takes is still being discussed.
“But a big part of our participation would be that the national team players would play in this league and perhaps be funded directly by U.S. soccer.”
Gulati also says that possible clubs are “spread across the country, and there are some former professional teams that are obviously part of that group.”
Gulati clarifies his take in this US Soccer Quote Sheet. “I don’t see us writing a check to any team but, for example, if we said, ‘Look, some National Team players are going to play in the league and you’re not funding them at 100 cents on the dollar,’ well that’s a pretty explicit subsidy. We have paid the players for their participation in the National Team program but the teams have paid their salaries for when they played with the teams.”
The battle for Seattle
The initial wave of publicity surrounding the emergence of a possible new Seattle pro women’s club to be owned by Bill Predmore has subsided, but that doesn’t mean talks and behind-the-scenes preparations have.
If US Soccer indeed decides to fund the salaries of its stars, such as Hope Solo and Alex Morgan, then it seems possible that a whole new group of owners and franchises may be viable, and that could include the Sounders Women, or perhaps even other current W-League clubs that operate using MLS names, such as the Vancouver Whitecaps Women, DC United Women and Colorado Rapids Women.
The Sounders Women have been mum on all of these developments, but they are said to be taking and / or making several calls a week and are being kept up to date with US Soccer’s talks and new pro league developments. This story on the exit of 2012 General Manager Amy Carnell seems to suggest she might be working on the Predmore side of things now.
Gulati might well be talking about Seattle when he says, as he lists the league outlook, “Ten markets and 11 teams. We’ve got a unique situation in one market where there are a couple of different possibilities, and we are talking about the possibility for sure of a launch next year. That’s the goal, and that’s what we’re seeing if we can work toward.”
Is Seattle that “unique situation?” Likely. Would a league consider starting with TWO Seattle sides? That seems much less likely, mainly because of lack of playing venues (a ground share of Starfire is problematic in part because of the MLS Sounders use of the stadium.)
The suggestion that US Soccer takes the salaries of its star players could revolutionize the sport and fuel a new league. Owners and clubs would be off the hook for the biggest salaries but would benefit from their drawing power. How US Soccer would fund the new expense is unknown at this time.
When US Soccer got involved in establishing a set of standards for division two men’s pro soccer, which is represented by the North American Soccer League (NASL) in America, they shot high and decided that owners needed a net worth of at least 20 million to own a side. Prospective new women’s pro club owners are waiting to see how high the bar will be set for them. This could have ripple effects in Seattle.
The end game is getting a national pro league with star US National Team players that has some kind of sustainable platform. In Seattle the end game is figuring out which owners and which club is the best fit for the new league.
Bill Predmore might have had the first say in the new future of women’s pro soccer in Seattle, but Sunil Gulati’s comments could be seen as giving hope to Sounders Women fans that their side might also be in the running to keep some of their stars from this season, should their club be able to graduate fully to “the pro’s.”