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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Abby Wambach wants WPS to survive

By Joanne C. Gerstner

The future of Women's Professional Soccer remains in the balance because of U.S. Soccer's demands and legal action by a former owner, but star player Abby Wambach remains bullish on the league's future.

Wambach, along with teammate Hope Solo, attended the 28th annual March of Dimes Sports Luncheon in New York on Wednesday, where they accepted the Sportswomen of the Year award on behalf of the U.S. national team.

Wambach, like Solo, played for magicJack last season and has seen the franchise, owned by Dan Borislow, terminated by the league's board in the offseason.

WPS is down to five teams, which is fewer than the eight required by U.S. Soccer to keep its sanctioning as a top-tier professional league. U.S. Soccer has given WPS 15 days, as of Nov. 20, to address the issue to its satisfaction by adding a sixth team. A waiver would be granted to keep the league at Division I status. Borislow, who had feuds with WPS all season, is suing the league to get his franchise back.

"Really, I'm not worried about the future of women's soccer," Wambach told espnW. "I'm in a position where I want the WPS to survive. And I think that given the right people in the right positions, hopefully this league can survive well beyond this next year because after the Olympics there's going to be two down years [until the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada] with the national team.

"We really want this league to survive, and we believe that it's important to not only have it survive for the current players, but for the players who are dreaming and hopefully maybe one day thinking about playing on the national team and taking Hope's and my place."

Solo declined to comment on the WPS situation.

Wambach, Solo and the other WPS players are caught in a web of issues far above them. The opening hearing for Borislow's lawsuit against WPS was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Florida. U.S. Soccer continues not to comment on the situation with the league.

The league's players have not said much publicly, either, other than to voice support via their Twitter accounts for keeping women's pro soccer strong in the U.S.

Wambach saw her role with magicJack expand from being the team's lead striker to coaching, too, after Borislow put her in charge after midsummer's World Cup in Germany. She has played in WPS since its inception in 2009, first with the Washington Freedom in 2009 and 2010.

She's watching the situations unfold, like the rest of the players, and wondering what her options will be if there is no WPS or if the league exists with a lower sanction -- or no sanction -- from U.S. Soccer. North American players possibly could be forced to play abroad in pro and semi-pro leagues that are scattered from Japan and Australia to South America to Europe.

"There's a lot of different plans that are in place," Wambach said. "It's just hard to really put anything down on paper or even really talk about it. In our inner circles, we have some things set up, but really we can't decide anything until the sanctioning of the league is dealt with."

Additional reporting by espnW contributor Amanda Rykoff.