Women's soccer fans have waited four years for the return of a U.S. professional league. Now it appears they will have to wait a little bit longer.
The yet-to-be-named women's league that announced it planned to launch in the spring of 2008 has tentatively been pushed back to 2009, according to several sources with knowledge of an ownership meeting earlier this week in New York. The owners are to meet again in Chicago next week and make a formal announcement then.
“I can't confirm we've made any decision about 2009,” said Tonya Antonucci, the CEO of Women's Soccer Initiative Inc., the San Francisco-based group that has been trying to revive a league after the eight-team WUSA folded in 2003. “We had a very positive meeting with our owners and we discussed 2008 vs. 2009.”
Asked what might sway the owners toward 2009, Antonucci said: “It's preparation, or operational readiness. I think the owners are carefully considering their opportunity to get it right a second time – what it takes to make sure the league has sustainability for the future.”
One problem is that teams are quickly running out of time, with a matter of months to set up front offices, hire coaching staffs, draft players and book venues for a 2008 season. Another issue is the new league announced it would have eight teams, and it still has only seven: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.
The rights to the eighth team was held by an entity called Soccer Initiative LLC, which the Union-Tribune later identified as Padres owner John Moores. Soccer Initiative LLC was supposed to designate a city by March or April, and San Diego was considered a leading candidate.
The eight charter owners, Antonucci said, signed letters of intent and made a “modest initial capital payment” to retain territorial rights.
“We're still in discussion with Soccer Initiative LLC,” Antonucci said. “The situation continues to evolve. We're still engaged with them, so I wouldn't rule them out.”
In the meantime, several other cities have shown interest in a franchise, including San Jose, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Rochester, N.Y., Vancouver, British Columbia, and Virginia Beach, Va.