A Professional Problem for Womens Soccer

Article excerpt

It sounds like Major League Soccer. But without the uniform and the name borne by the D.C. United Women, a far more humble existence is revealed.

Instead of their own training facility, they borrow a field at Catholic University in Northeast Washington. They practice at 9 p.m., after theyve finished their day jobs. Some of them dont know a single player on the clubs MLS affiliate and have never been to a D.C. United game.

Im glad that theyre letting us use their logo and be part of what theyve created, but its sort of a distant connection for right now, said United defender Marisa Abegg.

The same can be said of the womens game in relation to U.S. Soccer. While the womens U.S. national team gets set for the Summer Olympics after last years emotional and galvanizing performance at the World Cup, the professional game is headed back into the wilderness of uncertainty.

At the highest level, Womens Professional Soccer suspended operations in January after three tumultuous seasons. While it could come back, the W-League where the D.C. United Women play, opening their second season next weekend and Womens Premier Soccer League (WPSL) have jumped in to fill the void, but both are semi-pro or dont pay players at all. Plans exist to establish a top-level program as soon as next year.

But for now, the kind of pipeline that propelled Becky Sauerbrunn from the Washington Freedom into a regular spot on the national team, just as the WUSA launched the careers of Abby Wambach and Shannon Boxx, doesnt exist.

Sauerbrunn had youth national team experience but had no immediate pro opportunities when she graduated from Virginia in 2007.

I got to train with some of the best in the world and play one or two games a week in front of the national team staff, said Sauerbrunn, who became a regular last year after two seasons of grooming in WPS.

Shell be a part of the D.C. United Women for a few games this summer to tide her over when the U.S. team isnt in camp.

Abegg mightve made a similar leap. A U.S. youth national team veteran and Hermann Trophy semifinalist at Stanford, Abegg was drafted by FC Gold Pride in 2009, WPS first season. …