Shortly after Women’s Professional Soccer announced that it was suspending operations for the 2012 season, Women’s Premier Soccer League Commissioner Jerry Zanelli stepped in to offer his support. He extended an invitation to WPS teams to compete in his newly created WPSL Elite League, a semi-pro division that features eight teams.
“The WPSL recognizes the importance of a professional women’s soccer league in America,” Zanelli said. “And that it is critical to provide a showcase for these top women players, and to inspire young athletes. We have put together a plan that will allow WPS teams individually to join the WPSL in the Elite League. Officially, they will not be professional teams, but would allow our top professional players to play in a highly competitive league. No matter what eventually happens with the WPS, forcing these players to sit out a year would be a mistake.”
Two WPS teams - the Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash - accepted Zanelli’s offer, joining the WPSL Elite League. The eight-team league includes the Flash, Chicago Red Stars, FC Indiana, ASA Chesapeake Charge, Philadelphia Fever, NY Fury, New England Mutiny, and the Breakers. The latter two teams play their home games in Massachusetts, setting up an instant in-state rivalry.
The WPSL Elite League is separate from WPSL, a pro-am league that features more than 70 teams. Up until this year with WPSL Elite, however, only two teams - the Orange County Waves and Bay Area Breeze - featured a mixture of both professional and college athletes. The remaining teams featured all college players and a small mixture of high school players.
The WPSL Elite League rosters are taking shape. So far, the league features Olympic gold medalists Cat Whitehill (Boston Breakers) and Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), U.S. Women's National Team midfielder Lori Lindsey (WNY Flash), three players from Australia’s 2011 FIFA World Cup roster - Kyah Simon (Boston Breakers), Tameka Butt (Boston Breakers), and Emily van Egmond (WNY Flash) - Spanish international striker Adriana (WNY Flash), a handful of U.S. U-23 and U-20 players such as Boston College’s Alexa Gaul and Vicki DiMartino (both with the New England Mutiny), and former WPS stars like Allie Long, Brittany Taylor, Estelle Johnson, Nikki Krzysik, and Tina DiMartino, who will all play for the Fury, Jen Buczkowski (Chicago Red Stars), and many more.
The head coaches are in place for all eight teams. They are: Lisa Cole (Boston Breakers), Stuart Gore (Philadelphia Fever), Shek Borkowski (FC Indiana), Aaran Lines (Western New York Flash), Albert Oni (ASA Chesapeake Charge), Rory Dames (Chicago Red Stars), Paul Riley (NY Fury), and Tony Horta (New England Mutiny).
The opening weekend of the WPSL Elite League is scheduled for early May. Tickets are now on sale via the team’s websites. Visit www.wpsl.info for a list of teams and links to their websites