Ownership groups representing franchises in six major U.S. cities have signed letters of intent to become charter members of the Women’s Soccer Initiative, Inc.’s effort to launch a new professional women’s soccer league.
WSII CEO Tonya Antonucci announced the signings today and said the league anticipates a Spring 2008 launch, timed to capitalize on interest built during the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China in September.
The six announced charter teams will be led by the following investors:
Territory: Greater Los Angeles, CA
John Hendricks, Freedom Soccer LLC
Territory: Washington D.C.
Jeff Cooper, St. Louis United Soccer LLC
Territory: St. Louis, MO
Soccer Initiative, LLC
Territory: TBD, pending its final decision to select a market
Jack Hanks and Brent Coralli, Dallas Franchise Group
Territory: Greater Dallas area, TX
WGLSI, LLC and an additional investor TBD
Territory: Chicago and Bridgeview, IL
The league is three-quarters of the way to reaching its goal of 8 charter teams and has plans for expansion in 2009.
A critical step
“This is an important benchmark in the process to bring high-level professional women’s soccer back to North America,” Antonucci said. “We have taken both the lessons and the successes of the WUSA and applied them to create a business model that makes good economic sense,” she added.
The new league is built on a traditional franchise model and will play its games in stadiums designed specifically for soccer. This will give the teams opportunities to generate and retain more revenue and better showcase the sport, Antonucci explained.
In creating the league, WSII will also build partnerships with established soccer and sports marketing organizations. The league is currently in negotiations with Major League Soccer’s marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing, to represent its national sponsorship and marketing assets.
“The new business model significantly reduces overhead while taking advantage of efficiencies and synergies with existing MLS club owners and other professional sports teams,” Antonucci said.
AEG Sports President Shawn Hunter said, “Having initial franchises owned and operated by organizations with not only strong ties to professional soccer but with established internal marketing, sales, promotional and operational infrastructures is a critical and significant component to launching a league that can have immediate credibility and success.”
St. Louis investor Jeff Cooper said the timing of the league is ideal. “There’s a tremendous upswing in women’s collegiate soccer, particularly in our market,” Cooper said. “Combined with the coming bump in media coverage and public interest during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, this just makes sense. It’s a good proposition for all involved.”
“AEG is strongly committed to professional women's soccer,” AEG’s Hunter explained. “We believe that the combination of experience and resources the initial partnership group brings to the league, along with the dedicated fan base that exists for professional women's soccer, will create not only a successful launch but a league that will be financially viable and extremely popular.”
Representatives from all six markets have signed official Letters of Intent to launch the women’s professional soccer league in 2008, and have made financial commitments toward that goal. The WSII estimates financial requirements to maintain and operate a franchise to be between $1.5 and $2.5 million per year.
“In addition to the cities we are announcing today, we are also in talks with investor groups about additional markets,” Antonucci said. “We are also building our list of expansion cities, and we encourage interested investors to contact us.”
About the WSII
The WSII is a non-profit organization backed by grants from the U.S. Soccer Federation and U.S. Soccer Foundation. The organization was founded to build a new business plan to relaunch women’s professional soccer in the United States.