The highest level of women’s pro soccer in the U.S. played its final Saturday. The Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite match was played in Rochester, New York, home of the Western New York Flash.
The game went to PKs after the two finalists, the Flash and Chicago Red Stars, played 120 minutes to a 1-1 tie. The Flash won the title by winning the shootout 4-2.
This championship further solidifies the franchise as the major brand name in women’s pro soccer. This is the third consecutive title for the Flash (each championship was won in a differently named league).
While the WPSL Elite Final was basically ignored by the mainstream sports media this week, the US Women’s National Olympic team is getting the opposite treatment.
WPS was a pro league that began a few years after the first ever women’s paid professional league, the WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association 2001-2003), had to suspend its operations.
Both WPS and WUSA were not able to overcome financial hurdles to maintain a steady revenue stream and keep things growing.
There were moments for both leagues when it appeared they could find their niche with sports consumers and make it, but it never came to fruition.
WPSL Elite says it has the solution and will continue to make the efforts for a prosperous season next year.
There have been numerous great women players from the U.S. over the years and one well-known player from outside the U.S. Marta from Brazil, along with Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, and others have provided a glimpse of what could be a successful professional league.
But ultimately the support for women’s sports is not as prolific as it is for men’s sports, and this is the problem. Women are discriminated against by men and women when it comes to spectator sports.
Given the option to view a men’s game or a women’s game, most sports fans would choose the men’s game. This is probably because the highlights to watch are seemingly more dynamic and pleasurable to view.
The 2012 Olympic US Women’s team, though, is proving once again how spectacular and exciting women are to watch. These national teams have done this over and over every World Cup and every Olympics since the magical run of the 1999 Women’s World Cup win.
In fact, it was the ’99 WC that inspired the WUSA to get off the ground.
It can be argued that the only reason the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) has made it as long as it has is because it is attached to the NBA. The NBA assists in providing the WNBA with a higher profile through combined marketing campaigns.
The WNBA has found its audience by playing and finishing its season while the NBA is in its off-season. One markets into the other.
MLS would not be able to achieve the same with women’s soccer. It’s practically impossible for a women’s league to play during the MLS off-season of November through February.
But couldn’t MLS make an assist in the name of the women’s game? Shouldn’t they be looking to partner with the women’s game to find a solution for making it successful?
The Olympic Women’s team is on their run now and deserves all the attention they receive. They play awesome.
The WPSL Elite is banking on this Olympic run to give its league more story lines for next season. The hope is that next year’s Final will garner more respect with sports fans and not have to be an afterthought.
Women’s pro soccer in the U.S. deserves a fairer shot from mainstream sports media.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com