Women's Soccer News: WPSL Chicago Red Stars and FC Indiana to Join WPS Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash in Elite League
New WPSL Elite League will Provide Playing Opportunities for WPS Teams during League Hiatus
As a way of further supporting the growth and development of women’s soccer in the United States, the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) has announced the formation of the WPSL Elite League for the 2012 season. This new league will include squads from Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) teams The Boston Breakers and The Western New York Flash, along with current WPSL teams Chicago Red Stars and FC Indiana. The creation of the new league will allow professional players to remain in top form as the WPS works toward resuming play in 2013.
Initially the Elite League will be based in the Midwest and East Coast, with additional teams to be added over the coming days. Looking ahead, the West Coast has commitments from San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, the Bay Area and Seattle for 2013.
WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli told SoccerNationNews, “The WPSL recognizes the importance of a professional women’s soccer league in America and that it is critical to provide a showcase for these top women players, and to inspire young athletes.”
Officially the teams in the Elite League will not be professional teams, but will allow professional players to compete at a high level alongside professional-quality amateur players. “We have put together a plan that will allow WPS teams individually to join the WPSL in the Elite League,” said Zanelli. “The WPSL has many pro-level players and we have been exploring the idea of offering a pro-am division. The timing is right for us to step in and help women’s soccer in the USA.”
The WPSL recognized the importance of providing a venue for WPS teams to continue to train and compete while the league works through the current legal and financial issues. “No matter what eventually happens with the WPS, forcing these players to sit out a year would be a mistake,” Zanelli explained. “When the WPS suspended the 2012 season, it left them without a way to stay competitive. Everyone wants to help these players. We all recognize this and are willing to work together to solve this immediate problem.”
Zanelli clarified that this was a case of individual WPS teams joining with current WPSL teams to create a competitive league for the 2012 season, not the two leagues joining forces. The new teams in the Elite League would not be restricted on the types of players on their rosters. Teams could be made up of all professional athletes or a mix of professionals and amateurs. Currently the WPSL Orange County Waves and Bay Area Breeze include both professional and amateur players.
“Our main purpose was to find ways to continue to have the highest possible level of soccer for women in the United States,” said Zanelli, “and to help prepare for the return of professional women’s soccer in 2013. We also wanted to make it financially viable for present WPSL teams to join the Elite League and raise their level of play.”
The WPSL has seen steady growth since its creation fifteen years ago as a West Coast league. Now, with over 70 teams across the United States, WPSL ranks as the world’s largest women’s soccer league. The new Elite League fits into current growth plans, which included the creation of a West Coast-based semi pro league in 2013.
“This move is a way of continuing the growth of the WPSL pyramid that we have been working on for years,” said Zanelli. “This year the WPSL formed a separate under 20 nation-wide league. We already had plans for the semi-pro league in 2013 when this opportunity presented itself. We certainly feel it is a good idea. It fits into our plans and we feel it fits into the WPS’s plans as well by allowing their players to stay sharp.”
The new Elite League will allow the WPSL to put into practice the lessons learned from studying other professional leagues as it works to establish its highest level of competition. “We are trying to learn from how the previous professional leagues were set up,” said Zanelli. “We want to build this from the ground up. With these high-powered teams coming in to the Elite League, it will force the rest of our teams to improve their level of play. This will be the model for the West Coast.”
Teams in the Elite League will not be a part of the WPSL’s regional divisions and regional championship format. Currently WPSL regional championships lead to a final four playoff for the league championship. In 2011 the Orange County Waves defeated the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 to become WPSL Champions. A separate Elite League playoff schedule and championship weekend will be announced at a later date.
Related Article: Jerry Zanelli on WPS