Between 2009 and 2012, Women’s Professional Soccer (also known as the WPS) was the highest-level women’s professional soccer league in North America. Formed in September 2007 as the result of the Women’s Soccer Initiative, Inc. efforts, WPS began to play on March 29, 2009, consisting of seven teams across the country.
The teams for the 2009 season were the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Gold Pride (Bay Area), Los Angeles Sol, Sky Blue FC (NJ / NY), Saint Louis Athletica, and Washington Freedom.
WPS expanded to include the Philadelphia Independence and Atlanta Beat in 2010 and continues to explore additional potential franchises for 2010 and beyond.
Women’s Professional Soccer franchises are individually owned and operated by a group of investors in each market. The league is also part-owned and invested in by former Yahoo! President Jeff Mallett and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.
September 2008 saw the United States national team allocate 21 players across seven teams. The 2008 WPS International Draft was also held in September.
WPS Mission Statement
Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) mission was to be the world’s premier women’s soccer league, and the global standard by which women’s professional sports are measured.
Twenty-one players were allocated to seven teams by the United States national team in September 2008. WPS also held its international draft in September.
As opposed to WUSA, the WPS tried to focus more on local issues and grow slower. As part of its efforts to reduce costs, the WPS also developed a closer relationship with Major League Soccer.
Many teams lost more money than planned during their first season, despite considering it a moderate success. 2010 was a year when most teams began experiencing problems.
As a result of the downturn in attendance, teams struggled financially, and the WPS changed leadership by the end of 2010. As a result, attendance for 2010 was significantly lower than in 2009.
During the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the United States women’s national team had a great deal of success, resulting in increased league-wide attendance and interest in new teams for 2012.
In January 2012, the league announced the suspension of the 2012 season due to internal struggles, including an ongoing legal battle with one of the owners.
Three seasons after the WPS was founded, the league officially ceased operations on May 18, 2012.
Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) History
September 2003: Following the suspension of operations of the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), the WUSA Reorganization Committee was formed to determine the best method to re-launch a women’s professional soccer league in the United States.
July 2004: The WUSA Reorganization Committee, the Women’s Sports Foundation, and business executives Bob Greenberg and Chris Markgraf (both of whom go on to create WSII with Julie Foudy and Tonya Antonucci) hold a Summit in New York City to identify and examine the lessons learned from the WUSA’s failure and to determine the best path forward toward the launch of a viable new league.
November 2004: As a result of the Summit, the not-for-profit Women’s Soccer Initiative, Inc. (WSII) was formed with the support of the WUSA Players Association to promote and support all aspects of women’s soccer in the United States chiefly by encouraging and enabling the creation of a world-class professional women’s soccer league.
February 2005: The U.S. Soccer Federation and U.S. Soccer Foundation each provide operational grants to WSII to support WSII’s efforts to develop a viable business model and bring back women’s professional soccer.
February 27, 2007: WSII CEO Tonya Antonucci announces that AEG; John Hendricks of Freedom Soccer LLC; Jeff Cooper of St. Louis United Soccer LLC; Soccer Initiative, LLC; Jack Hanks and Brent Coralli of the Dallas Franchise Group and WGLSI, LLC have signed letters of intent to become charter members of the new women’s professional league.
April 18, 2007: WSII CEO Tonya Antonucci announces that Sky Blue Soccer and Boston Women’s Soccer LLC have agreed to join the previously announced groups as charter members of the new women’s professional league.
As of September 4, 2007, a new North American women’s soccer league is established by seven investor groups in the United States under the temporary working title of Women’s Soccer LLC. As of now, the league has teams based in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.
Tonya Antonucci is named the league’s commissioner. In addition, soccer United Marketing (SUM), the commercial arm of MLS, is named the league’s representative for national sponsorship sales and licensing.
October 15, 2008: The League sets up offices in downtown San Francisco, Calif.
January 17, 2008: The League’s brand name, logo, and website are launched at the National Soccer Coaches Association Convention in Baltimore, Md. Vicki Veenker is named General Counsel.
February 5, 2008: Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and former Yahoo! President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Mallett become investors and part owners of the league.
February 15, 2008: WPS receives provisional Division 1 status at U.S. Soccer’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). The league will receive full Division 1 status just before its inaugural season at the 2009 U.S. Soccer AGM in Orlando, Fla.
May 27, 2008: Philadelphia investors sign a letter of intent with the League regarding an expansion team for the 2010 season.
July 8, 2008: Women’s Professional Soccer announces the post-Olympics timeline for National Team player allocation, drafts, and team tryouts.
August 11, 2008: Atlanta investors sign a letter of intent with the League regarding an expansion team for the 2010 season.
September 3, 2008: Bay Area investors join the League for the 2009 inaugural season. The League also announces that the team planned for Dallas is now slated to begin to play in 2010, pending securing a stadium.
September 16, 2008: In an announcement co-hosted by WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci and WPS Part-Owner and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash in New York City, members of the U.S. Women’s National Team player pool are allocated to WPS teams.
September 24, 2008: Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced the results of its WPS Initial International Draft, officially assigning the WPS-playing rights to those selected by the individual teams.
October 6, 2008: Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and Fox Soccer Channel announced a multi-year partnership to televise a live national Sunday night WPS game of the week on America’s premier soccer network beginning in 2009, the inaugural season for WPS.
October 6, 2008: The WPS General Draft was conducted and consisted of four rounds of selections of international and domestic players for all seven WPS teams.
December 15, 2008: Global sports brand PUMA and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced an exclusive partnership making PUMA an official founding partner of WPS and an official sponsor of all WPS franchises.
December 16, 2008: Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced its opening game and slate of home openers for the inaugural 2009 WPS Season. Headlining the list of games is the “WPS Inaugural Match” featuring the Los Angeles Sol against the Washington Freedom at The Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.
January 16, 2009: Women’s Professional Soccer conducts its 2009 WPS Draft consisting of 10 rounds of selections of domestic and college players for all seven WPS teams.
February 24, 2009: Women’s Professional Soccer and PUMA unveiled the 2009 home and away uniforms for all seven WPS teams at a fashion presentation in New York City.
March 2, 2009: Preseason begins for all seven WPS teams.
March 29, 2009: The WPS Inaugural Match is held at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., between the Los Angeles Sol and Washington Freedom.
May 18, 2009: WPS’s eighth franchise is named Philadelphia Independence in a ceremony at the Franklin Institute.
June 18, 2009: WPS’s ninth franchise is named the Atlanta Beat in a ceremony at Atlanta’s Metro Chamber of Commerce.
August 22, 2009: Sky Blue FC (NJ/NY) wins the inaugural WPS Championship, 1-0, over the Los Angeles Sol at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
August 30, 2009: The WPS All-Stars defeat Umea IK, 4-2, in the WPS All-Star Game presented by the U.S. Coast Guard at The Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.
January 15, 2010: Women’s Professional Soccer conducts its 2010 WPS Draft, with 65 college players being selected.
January 28, 2010: Women’s Professional Soccer discontinues operations of the Los Angeles Sol.
April 10, 2010: Women’s Professional Soccer’s second season kicks off.
May 27, 2010: The Saint Louis Athletica shut down their franchise.
September 24, 2010: WPS announces a Western New York franchise as a 2011 expansion team.
September 26, 2010: FC Gold Pride wins the 2010 WPS Championship with a 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia Independence at Pioneer Stadium in Hayward, Calif.
October 1, 2010: Tonya Antonucci steps down as WPS Commissioner, and Anne-Marie Eileraas assumes the role of Chief Executive Officer.
November 16, 2010: FC Gold Pride closes operations.
December 1, 2010: The Western New York Flash, a 2011 expansion team, unveils its team name and logo.
December 13, 2010: Chicago Red Stars announce the team will forego the 2011 season.
January 14, 2011: Women’s Professional Soccer conducts its 2011 WPS Draft consisting of four rounds of selections that saw 24 players selected by the six participating teams.
March 2, 2011: Preseason officially opens for all six teams.
April 9, 2011: Atlanta Beat and Boston Breakers kick off Women’s Professional Soccer’s third season in the opening match of 2011 at KSU Soccer Stadium in Kennesaw, GA.
August 14, 2011: Western New York Flash clinch the 2011 Regular Season Championship, an automatic berth into the WPS Championship match, and the right to host the Final at their home stadium.
August 27, 2011: Western New York Flash cap the club’s inaugural season in WPS by capturing the 2011 WPS Championship in front of a record-setting Championship crowd of 10,461.
September 18, 2011: Anne Marie Eileraas steps down as Chief Executive Officer of WPS.
September 26, 2011: Jennifer O’Sullivan is appointed Chief Executive Officer of WPS.
January 30, 2012: Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced the suspension of the 2012 season and intended to resume competition in 2013.