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WPS LogoSeptember 13, 2008 – The Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) draft takes place next week so let’s check in on what’s happening with the new league.

If you’ve been living in a cave, you might not know that the WPS, scheduled to launch in 2009,  will be the highest level of women’s professional soccer in North America. The league consists of seven teams across the country with markets for the first season including the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. WPS will expand to Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia in 2010 and will continue to explore additional potential franchises for 2010 and beyond.

The Bay Area team is the most recent addition and up until last week, it looked like San Diego would have a franchise as well but the status of that team is in limbo.

Formally announced last September, the much-anticipated women’s pro soccer league hopes to build off the U.S. Women’s Gold medal-winning performance in Beijing. The WPS logo showcases a familiar silhouette – FIFA World Champion, Olympic Gold Medal winner and Hall of Fame player Mia Hamm, renowned as a pioneer for women’s soccer.

To stock its charter teams with players, the WPS first is going to allocate players from the U.S. national team and its player pool this month. Next will be a draft of top international players, followed by a general draft for domestic and international players. Over 100 players from the USL’s W-League were invited to a combine last week in Tampa allowing general managers and coaches to scout additional players.

You can catch live coverage of the 2008 WPS Player Allocation announcement on Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 12:30pm ET (9:30am PT).

So, who will play in the new league?

Hopefully Abby Wambach will recover from her broken leg in time to play the first WPS season.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo deliberated about going back to Sweden to play, but decided to help get the new U.S. women’s pro league started next year. The U.S. women’s Olympic victory was sweet redemption for Solo who was benched in the semifinals against Brazil last year.

Former WNT team captain Kristine Lilly’s will resume training for the WPS after missing the Olympics to give birth to her daughter.

Carli Lloyd, Christine Rampone, Leslie Osborne, Heather Mitts and all the other greats from the U.S. women’s gold-medal team will be divided up between the seven teams.

There’s even talk that Brandi Chastain wants to return to pro soccer to play for the new league!

If the whole WPS thing sounds like deja-vu, it is. Women’s professional soccer had a league (WUSA) that ran for three seasons (2001-03) before closing operations due to financial constraints.

WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci feels the new league has learned from prior mistakes and can be successful. In a Q&A with ESPN she talks about players, playing style and the future of the league.

Boston Breakers: Tony DiCicco (U.S. under-20 women’s national team coach)
Chicago Red Stars:
Emma Hayes (Arsenal Ladies Football Club assistant coach)
Bay Area:
Los Angeles: Abner Rogers (President/Director of Coaching at the Laguna Hills Soccer Club Eclipse)
New York/New Jersey Sky Blue FC: Ian Sawyers (Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy director)
St. Louis:
 Jorge Barcellos (Brazil women’s national team coach)
Washington DC Freedom:  Jim Gabarra (Washington Freedom, W-League)

In order for the WPS to be successful, it needs to win the hearts and minds of the girls who will be tomorrow’s soccer stars. To avoid becoming another sports footnote (like the WUSA), this league must differentiate the product and understand the unique target market.

Play on ladies….

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