Tuesday, March 06, 2007

WUSA Re-launch in 2008

The announcement of the WUSA's re-launch in 2008, and its accompanying six franchises set to kickoff in 13 months, is welcome news to those who followed the league during its previous campaign from 2001 through 2003. Investors lined up include AEG, which will oversee the operations of the Los Angeles franchise, and Chicago Fire general manager Peter Wilt, along with FC Indiana and the Illinois Women's Soccer League, which will back the Chicago franchise.

So where is the Boston franchise? As of yet, there is none, at least not among the first six franchises that will see the pitch up play next year. The idea that the WUSA will march forward without a Boston franchise in place is troubling. The Boston Breakers, one of the original WUSA clubs in 2001, drew well during the league's three year run, averaging 7,674 fans a game at Nickerson Field, located on the campus Boston University. In light of this statistic, the idea that women's pro soccer could not succeed is preposterous. The stumbling block to having a Boston franchise all boils down to one key word: Investors.

So where are the investors? Surely, they exist. The easy route would be to knock on the doors of the investors who back the New England Revolution. After all, does one think that these sponsors are only looking to capitalize on the 'male' dollar? Why not try and attract the 'female' dollar by putting some bucks behind a nearby women's club? Kraft Soccer would seem to be the ideal investor, seeing as the Revolution are doing well in providing soccer fans with one of the greatest values among the major professional sports scene in New England.

If Kraft is unwilling to bear the torch of a WUSA franchise, who will? One could look to the previous Boston Breakers as a source. Former owner Amos Hostetter and General Manager Joe Cummings would seem to be the ideal candidates to find investors from the Breakers heyday in an attempt to field a Breakers version 2.0 in 2009, when WUSA expansion has been targeted.

Under an ideal situation, an investment group spearheaded by Cummings, with Kraft as a partner, would certainly give both the experience and financial savvy necessary to successfully launch a WUSA franchise in Boston. The venue could once again be Nickerson Field, since it appears there were no problems drawing fans to the 10,000 seat stadium. Call them the Breakers once again, as it would make sense to attract the same fans that had filled the seats previously.

Of course, we are negotiating under ideal conditions. However, should there be no Boston-based WUSA franchise come to 2009, there would be many questions that need answering. How significantly have things since changed since 2003 to where a previously successful market is not willing to re-establish itself? More importantly, how does it reflect on the health of professional soccer as a whole in New England?

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