Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Welcomes New U.S. Women's Soccer League, Coach Calls It 'Fantastic News'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Welcomes New U.S. Women's Soccer League, Coach Calls It 'Fantastic News'

Article excerpt

Canada welcomes new U.S. women's league

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TORONTO - Canada won't have a team in the proposed new women's pro soccer league but it has found a U.S. home for at least 16 of its internationals.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that an eight-team league will start play next spring. Canadian players will be spread among the U.S. franchises, with the Canadian Soccer Association footing the bill for up to 16 of its internationals.

The American federation will pay for up to 24 of its internationals while the Mexican federation will fund at least 12 internationals.

That means each team could field some seven internationals from the top-ranked American national team, No. 7 Canada and No. 24 Mexico.

"Immediately you're going to see one of the best leagues in the world ... You're going to see a lot of top players," said U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati.

"There's no doubt there'll be top players coming from elsewhere."

The league is set to start in March/April next year with eight franchises: Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, New Jersey, Portland, Seattle, western New York state and Washington, D.C.

The schedule will probably run through September/October but could change depending on international competitions such as the World Cup or Olympics.

Some questions weren't answered Wednesday -- the league's name, for one. Organizers said there have been "preliminary discussions" with a TV partner and a "handshake agreement" with a national sponsor.

It's the third attempt at a U.S. women's pro league, following the demise of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) and the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA).

U.S. Soccer will also serve as the new league's front office, all part of a plan to "create an economic model that's sustainable," said Gulati.

"We're subsidizing the private sector here, to try to make this sustainable, to try to make the investments necessary by the private sector smaller," he added.

That includes playing in smaller stadiums and relying on smaller team frameworks.

It's timely news for Canada, which is hosting the 2015 Women's World Cup.

Canadian women's coach John Herdman called it "a major strategic step for Canada women's soccer."

"The opportunity to have players now playing at the highest levels in professional leagues will make sure that our players are going to be ready to perform at that (2015) World Cup and Olympic Games," he said from his Vancouver office

The Canadian women, currently ranked seventh in the world, are coming off a bronze medal performance at the London Olympics.

Herdman estimates that only 40 per cent of his squad has been playing for pro clubs. The goal is to have 80 per cent of the squad in a pro environment in 2015, 2016.

Herdman had his team in a residency camp in Vancouver prior to the Olympics. Given the limited alternatives, it was the best possible option. …

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