Aug 182009

San Francisco (Source: San Francisco Business Times)

by Eric Young

Some Women’s Professional Soccer teams lost as much as $2 million during the just-concluded inaugural season, but the league remains on track to expand and add new sponsors, its top official said Tuesday.

WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said that the poor economy hurt fans’ and sponsors’ willingness to spend. But she said the women’s pro soccer league, which has its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, remains on track to stabilize its financial footing.

“Keeping our eye on the ball and having long term sustainability is extremely important to our league,” said Antonucci, a former Yahoo Inc. executive.

League officials said WPS would break even this year if teams attracted an average of 5,000 fans per game. Average game attendance was 4,500 people. As a result of lower-than-expected ticket sales and other expenses like stadium costs, some of WPS’ seven teams lost up to $2 million this season, which ended Aug. 9. Antonucci declined to name which teams lost that amount.

Despite financial challenges during its first year, WPS will bring on two additional teams — in Atlanta and Philadelphia — in 2010, bringing the total number of teams to nine. The Bay Area’s WPS team, FC Gold Pride, play in Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.

WPS has signed the U.S. Coast Guard as a sponsor in a multi-year deal and it is close to finalizing a separate deal for yet another new sponsor who plans to buy ad space on players’ jerseys next season, Antonucci said.

The league this year lined up athletic clothing maker Puma AG, nutritional supplier Advocare International LP, Fox Soccer Channel and flavored water seller Hint Inc. as league wide sponsors.

WPS is the successor to the Women’s United Soccer Association, a league that operated from 2001 to 2003 with players like Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy. The WUSA was launched amid excitement following the U.S. women’s national team victory in the 1999 World Cup. The WUSA shut down after TV ratings and attendance goals fell short.

Antonucci, who was not part of WUSA, launched WPS this year with seven teams each playing 20 games.

WPS’ championship game is Aug. 22. The Los Angeles Sol will face the winner of the Aug. 19 semifinal between Saint Louis Athletica and Sky Blue FC of New York.

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The Coach is a long-time soccer player, coach and fan. He started playing in the dark ages (1970's) and will continue as long as his body will let him. He has coached players from u-7 to adult and players learning the game to players trying to make their national team. He is a dedicated fan of the Oranje.

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