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Monday, December 12, 2011
Trying to figure out what's next for the WPS

By Beau Dure

U.S. Soccer's decision on Monday evening to give conditional sanctioning to the Women's Professional Soccer as a Division 1 league for 2012 is an important thing for the league, but it brings up as many questions as it answers. Here are some of the lingering questions and issues the WPS will need to work through in the coming months, and a few answers:

Why is this Division 1 sanctioning so important?

Players who participate in an unsanctioned league would risk the wrath of FIFA, possibly jeopardizing their ability to play in the World Cup and other international events. A Division 1 sanction, rather than Division 2, increases the odds of attracting top talent. See our previous Q&A for details.

What's next for WPS?

U.S. Soccer's sanctioning is contingent on all five existing teams agreeing to meet certain conditions. Some teams have already approved those conditions. Others haven't. But no one has rejected the conditions -- the U.S. Soccer decision was handed down Monday evening, and some owners may not yet have had time to give approval.

What are the conditions to which WPS teams must agree?

U.S. Soccer hasn't revealed those conditions but may do so when the teams have agreed to them. A formal announcement may take place as soon as Tuesday.

Will U.S. national team players be involved with WPS next season?

Too soon to tell. Most U.S. players have not signed contracts for 2012, and the national team will spend much of the summer preparing for and playing in the 2012 Olympics -- if the team qualifies in January.

Who made the decision on sanctioning?

WPS made its case to U.S. Soccer's Professional League Task Force -- U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn, executive VP Mike Edwards and independent director Carlos Cordeiro. That group made its recommendation to the full board, which includes those three people (Flynn is a non-voting member) along with representatives from across U.S. Soccer. The board includes U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, former national team players such as Jeff Agoos and Danielle Fotopoulos, administrators such as MLS commissioner Don Garber, and independent members such as former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala.

When is the league's draft?

WPS reiterated in a Dec. 8 news release that its draft is scheduled to coincide with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America conference Jan. 11-15 in Kansas City, Mo.

Has the delay in sanctioning hurt WPS?

Offseason preparations have certainly been affected. Player signings have slowed, though Atlanta has agreed to terms with WPS rookie of the year Christen Press. The league also needs to finalize sponsorship deals. Boston also has not yet formally announced its complete ownership group for next season.

What other issues could hold up the 2012 WPS season?

One of the owners could balk at the conditions or run into financial problems. Also, the league is still battling a suit brought by terminated owner Dan Borislow seeking reinstatement of his team. In legal documents, WPS warns that some owners could walk away from the league if Borislow's case is successful.

What's the status of Borislow's suit?

An evidentiary hearing is set for Dec. 16 in Palm Beach County (Fla.) District Court.