Los Angeles Soccer: Grace Gill-McGrath
May, 21, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
The Women's Premier Soccer League kicks off Saturday with two new teams from Orange County, and each arrives with very singular plans for success.
The Orange County Waves, led by former L.A. Sol head coach Abner Rogers, are primarily a professional club looking toward a jump to Women's Professional Soccer -- or whatever the top tier of the American women's game evolves into.
The Los Al Vikings are designed to provide opportunities for players out of its parent club, Los Alamitos-based Viking Soccer Club, to play competitive soccer after their youth careers have ended and gain exposure from college recruiters.
That both approaches fit the national semipro/amateur league is part of the charm, and part of the problem, with the women's game in the U.S. The primary issues: dwindling popularity of female soccer as a spectator sport in the post-Mia Hamm era (while an increasing number of talented players pour from clubs across the nation) and debate over how best to present top players, from the U.S. and abroad, in a country that stretches some 3,000 miles from coast to coast.
The future, the smart observers note, is regionalization, and not the kind the WPS, in its third year, has fallen into. The country's (and maybe the world's) top league has lost five of its original teams -- the Sol was the first to go -- and, this year, is an East Coast-only affair.
Rogers, who guided the Sol into the WPS's inaugural championship game in 2009, understands the minefield that must be traversed. The burning question: How can a national women's league be profitable and meaningful?