When Women's Professional Soccer's second season kicks off April 10, it will have two new teams in Philadelphia and Atlanta and an expanded 24-game season schedule. What it won't have is its most popular team, the Los Angeles Sol, which yesterday the league decided to fold and disperse its roster (which includes Marta, the world's most accomplished player) among the league's other teams.
A lot of stupid things are bound to be said and written over the next few months about this turn of events, but at least we know that Tonya Antonucci, the league's commissioner, has her head screwed on right. Antonucci noted yesterday that the Sol was one of the league's strongest clubs financially, and that the team had proved that the L.A. market was viable for women's soccer - and said, furthermore, that WPS hoped to have a team there again in 2011.
So, what the hell happened? How can a team that compiles the league's best record, averages 6,300 fans a game at home compared with the other WPS teams' 4,600, boosts league-wide road attendance by 25 percent and finishes one goal short of being crowned the WPS' inaugural champion, fail?
Simple. Anschutz Entertainment Group, the team's owner, decided it wanted to sell the Sol after the season, in spite of the fact that the company's owner, Philip Anschutz, is a billionaire. Unable to find an immediate buyer, Anschutz transferred the rights back to WPS, and for some reason WPS decided to fold the team rather than operate it as Major League Baseball did with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.
And why did the league decide that no Sol was better for the league than a league-operated Sol? Probably because the team, no matter what Antonucci says, was losing money - in which case you'd have to ask yourself just how shaky the WPS's finances are. Frankly, I'm not that keen on calling them for a comment, after dutifully publishing the optimistic statements of the WPS in 2009. I know this: Folding your start-up league's version of FC Barcelona doesn't bode well for women's soccer in this country.