Flash, Breakers of WPS to play 2012 in WPSL
While Women's Professional Soccer prepares for more rounds in court, some of its current and former teams have made plans to play in 2012.
The 2011 WPS champion Western New York Flash and the Boston Breakers will play in a new elite division of the long-standing Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL). The Chicago Red Stars, who played in WPS in 2009 and '10 and joined the WPSL last season, and FC Indiana will compete on the elite level.
"The new elite league would have no restrictions on the types of players each team could roster; a team could be all professional players or could have a mix of professional and amateur players," a WPSL press release about the deal said.
Players seeking to retain college eligibility, though, are subject to some NCAA restrictions.
New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC also has plans to stay active, announcing a March tour of Japan that will include exhibitions against Japanese club INAC Kobe Leonessa. As of last month, the Kobe club included several members of Japan's World Cup-winning team, including FIFA player of the year Homare Sawa. Sky Blue has not committed to plans for the summer.
The Philadelphia Independence announced plans for camps and a youth program. The Atlanta Beat has not announced their plan for the season.
Meanwhile, WPS is trying to free itself from the Florida court system.
But magicJack owner Dan Borislow and his lead attorney, Louis Ederer, will not make it easy for the league to move on. In a lengthy court filing Monday, Borislow's legal team asked that the league go through an exhaustive discovery process and deposition of league CEO Jennifer O'Sullivan in late March.
Borislow concedes the league's decision to suspend operations in 2012 did not violate a proposed settlement read in court. But that settlement, which includes some confidential terms, also includes exhibition games in 2013, when the league intends to return.
"We want the deal enforced," Borislow said.
The documents requested are wide-ranging -- all communications about the decision to suspend the 2012 season, minutes of Board of Governors meetings, notes relating to the league's Jan. 30 media conference call, legal bills, financial forecasts for the suspended 2012 season, and even drafts and revisions of the league's Jan. 30 news release on suspending the season.
Borislow's filings also reveal the evidence that has drawn media attention -- lists of Borislow's skirmishes over league policies, inflammatory emails and so forth -- are not being considered in court.
The league included this evidence to establish Borislow had not lived up to his obligations and shouldn't be seeking relief.
"Plaintiffs have no standing to request injunctive relief as a result of their prior breaches of contract," reads a headline in the league's Nov. 22 court filing, which then cites legal precedent that "a party is not entitled to enjoin the breach of a contract by another, unless he himself has performed what the contract requires of him."
But Ederer has submitted a lengthy "declaration" that describes the league's weighty Nov. 22 court filing as "little more than a personal attack on the Plantiffs' principal, Daniel Borislow." He said the league added more "of a personal attack on Mr. Borislow" on Dec. 14, and he laments that "(m)any of these non-public emails were published by the media, which has been following this proceeding closely."
Borislow's legal team moved to exclude this evidence, arguing that the court was simply addressing the legalities of magicJack's termination, not the underlying dispute. WPS at first challenged this exclusion, according to Ederer's declaration, then backed away.
Ederer, former co-owner of the Long Island Rough Riders soccer club, argues that the league has no room to walk away from the proposed settlement. Though the court transcript specifies that only three of the five WPS team owners had approved the deal, he says he sought assurance that the deal wasn't dependent on the other two owners' approval. "Defendant's counsel assured me that Defendant would not take that position," his declaration reads.
Then Ederer argues that the deal wasn't dependent on U.S. Soccer approval, saying the parties were only going to U.S. Soccer to make sure no details violated the federation's policies.
"It was made clear that the effectiveness of the settlement was not dependent on Federation approval, to the extent such approval was even needed, but rather, simply, that the parties would proceed expeditiously to obtain whatever approvals may be needed," Ederer's declaration reads.
U.S. Soccer has declined comment. But Borislow's court documents suggest league authorities almost immediately viewed the deal as unworkable.
The proposed deal was read in court Jan. 18. In an email dated Jan. 19, according to Borislow's exhibits, Western New York coach Aaran Lines says U.S. Soccer isn't going to allow Borislow's proposed magicJack exhibition team to play. The email from Lines is addressed to a player, whose name is redacted, that Lines said in the email had verbally agreed to play for Western New York but was now considering Borislow's team instead.
"On your side of things, you clearly didn't do your due diligence regarding the magicJack team," the email says. "The team will not be approved by US Soccer and will not go ahead."
Ironically, the last prominent team to play an exhibition schedule was the Washington Freedom, which played exhibitions in the mid-2000s after the WUSA folded and before the club joined the W-League. That team played two seasons in WPS before Borislow bought it, moved it to South Florida and renamed it magicJack. But when the team played exhibitions, it included a mix of former pros and students, retaining amateur status.