WPS Demise Can Be Partly Blamed on U.S. Soccer Federationby Dennis Justice
May 18, 2012 - Women's Professional Soccer (WPS)
But let us not ignore the root of the problem: the management of the United States Soccer Federation, led by Sunil Gulati. They are the sanctioning body, and how an organization forms directly translates to whether it succeeds or not.
Why is the USSF greatly to blame? They allowed a hodgepodge of soccer culture with no clear direction that certainly doesn't do what rest of the world does. This made WPS goals much harder to achieve. The USSF is unwilling to step on the toes of "soccer mom" to change that culture.
The lack of promotion and relegation in either men's or women's soccer has meant trying to get "big money" for a few teams instead of steadily building a network of professional programs with local investors. The USSF acts like that's not its job while doing the bidding of Major League Soccer.
(Also, American soccer focuses on "indoor soccer" with random bounces off hockey walls instead of the less-expensive Futsal, which forces young players to develop skills. Soccer's way too expensive for many American youth.)
Women's soccer can draw national attention. Ratings for the Women's World Cup were pretty impressive. (Japan won the World Cup, and their semipro league has promotion and relegation.) The recent UEFA Women's Final drew over 50,000 spectators.
Also, WPS cities had huge networks of girls' soccer programs, with millions of girls playing. One league in Philadelphia had over 550 girls' teams alone. Since girls' football is not prevalent in high school, girls are more likely to stick with soccer than boys.
What did not happen was properly channeling that to WPS teams. Pro teams should own and run all of local youth development, and frankly, those fields should be closed during home games so those players (and parents) get the hint to support the pro team that runs their program.
Promotion and relegation can work here. American greyhound racing is a billion dollar-per-year industry with pro-rel. A new league could have two conferences to save travel costs, with one big national final. Call it the "American Premier League." (I own www.americanpremierleague.com, by the way.) You can even set up a system for two tiers in "major" cities" and two tiers in "minor" cities as a compromise.
Promotion and relegation is not itself a "magic bullet," but it is the most important starting component. To develop the correct culture, pro teams would have to be developed locally and organically, even if it takes a decade to do it right. They can work with corresponding men's teams, take over youth development (which generates revenue) and develop cost-effective stadiums.
I suspect that the USSF is afraid to make such bold moves because those moves will upset MLS. This tail wagging the dog is bad enough on the men's side. It's killing women's soccer worse than anything Borislow did.
The USSF once had to basically force a merger between two second-tier leagues. While the WUSA and WPS have to blame themselves for writing their own failed templates, from here on out, the future template of women's soccer must be written by USSF.
There are no more excuses. Even if it takes years, announce the intent to change American soccer culture now. For God's sake, do it right next time!
Women's Professional Soccer Stories from May 18, 2012
- WPS Demise Can Be Partly Blamed on U.S. Soccer Federation - OSC Original by Dennis Justice
- Flashcard Preview Verus New York Fury - Western New York Flash
- Women's Professional Soccer Suspends Operations Permanently - WPS
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