New Professional Women’s Soccer League Conference Call: Live Updates

With all the likely breaking news that should come out of today’s conference call, which is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET, and from other sources, this post will be used for running updates about the new league and its teams. After the dust settles, there will be a more formal post on today’s news, probably in a question-and-answer format.

All times are Eastern (USA).

12:45 p.m.  – EARLIER POSTS ON THE PROPOSED LEAGUE

12:50 p.m. – STATEMENT FROM CHARLIE NAIMO: Regarding the lack of a Franchise in L.A.

From EqualizerSoccer.com (see the article for the full quote):

Without question we are frustrated and disappointed with US Soccer’s decision to leave us out. It makes no sense in the long run. When have we ever been able to field three West Coast teams in a professional women’s league in its inaugural season? Never… expansion would have been much easier in the future giving us our own conference. Coming from USL Pro and knowing the costs of an extra trip to CA in a season is not a make or break cost to a “professional” team.

And:

Regarding expansion, who knows… but I can tell you the lead investor in this venture most likely will not be interested again.

Some of the tweets and comments coming out of the Los Angeles group seem to have the flavor of sour grapes (e.g., see the tweets in this thegoatparade.com article), with even Jeff Di Veronica of Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle noting that one of the tweets by Naimo had a “whiny tone.” So, until we get a rebuttal from Sunil Gulati and U.S. Soccer, we should take the L.A. group’s comments with a grain of salt. Likewise, Jeff Kassouf of EqualizerSoccer.com, in the above linked article and an earlier one, seems sympathetic to this group, or at least has an apparent “better now, rather than later” attitude.

But, if the lead investor is not even willing to wait a single year for an expansion franchise, then are they really more reliable than a future franchise investor who will likely have a more realistic outlook on what they are getting themselves into, time-, money-, and business- wise?

And, perhaps there were other issues with the L.A. proposal and the “geography” excuse was a polite way of declining a franchise to the L.A. group.

12:54 p.m. – SEATTLE SOUNDERS WILL STAY IN THE W-LEAGUE

Which likely means that the ownership group led by Bill Predmore of the digital marketing agency POP is the probable franchisee in Seattle.

1:12 p.m. – FIRST TWEETS FROM THE CONFERENCE CALL

So, likely 3 players per squad. Note: 24 for U.S. Soccer is a maximum.

1:15 p.m. – CANADA SOCCER WILL FUND 16 PLAYERS

So, probably 2 players per team. Also, the 16 is a maximum number.

1:19 p.m. – MEXICO’S FOOTBALL FEDERATION (FMF) WILL FUND AT LEAST 12 PLAYERS.

So, teams next year will likely have a minimum of 6 internationals (3 USA, 2 Canada, 2 Mexico.)

1:19 p.m. – LEAGUE NAME STILL NOT SETTLED

See above.

1:26 p.m. – GULATI: “LESS HYPE, BETTER PEFORMANCE…”

Can we get that on a T-shirt?

1:28 p.m. – SOME PLAYERS WILL PROBABLY BE PART-TIME

The above is not really new compared to the old WPS, but it is worth mentioning.

1:30 p.m. – ON SELECTION CRITERIA FOR FRANCHISES

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1:33 p.m. – 2013 LEAGUE REGULAR SEASON WILL APPARENTLY BE 22 GAMES

So, a triple round-robin (21) plus one additional match

1:37 p.m. – ON THE LACK OF A TEAM IN CANADA

So, perhaps at a later date. And, reading between the lines, no established team (e.g., Vancouver Whitecaps) was likely interested.

1:40 p.m. – MLS INVOLVEMENT: ONE TEAM RIGHT NOW, MORE ON THE WAY?

Apparently, at least one MLS franchise is involved in the current group of teams:

Which likely either Portland or D.C.

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1:44 p.m. – ON THE NUMBER OF INITIAL TEAMS

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1:50 p.m. – ON THE SEASON LENGTH AND TIMING

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1:51 p.m. – RESIDENCY CAMPS ARE STILL IN THE PICTURE

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1:53 p.m. – CLARIFICATION ON THE NUMBER OF PLAYERS FUNDED BY USSF, CSA

The 24 for U.S. Soccer and 16 for Canada Soccer are MAXIMUMS:

Missed that earlier.

1:59 p.m. – WILL THERE BE A SALARY CAP?

So, stay tuned…

2:00 p.m. – THE REASON FOR THE LEAGUE

Which is not that groundbreaking, given earlier news about the proposed league (such as in early October).

2:02 p.m. – THE CONFERENCE CALL ENDED 15 MINUTES AGO…

Here’s Beau Dure’s quick take on the call (SportsMyriad.com).

2:04 p.m. – PORTLAND TIMBERS OWNERSHIP INVOLVED

PortlandTimbers.com: Statement from Merritt Paulson regarding Professional Women’s Soccer coming to Portland

“We are pleased to partner with U.S. Soccer to bring a new women’s professional team to Portland and to do our part to make a top-flight women’s league possible in our country. The Timbers are, and always will be, steadfastly committed to growing the sport of soccer in our region at all levels, and championing a new women’s league and operating a team here in Soccer City, USA, will be an important part of that growth.

“Building on today’s news, soccer fans can look forward to many exciting announcements in the coming weeks and months leading up to the club’s inaugural season, including team name, logo and uniforms; schedule and ticket information; and a host of prominent roster announcements.”

Edit (2:50 p.m.): The above press release notes that the team name is still to be announced, which makes it seem unlikely that it would be named the obvious “Timbers Women.”

2:05 p.m. –  SEATTLE FRANCHISE PRESS RELEASE

From a Seattle Times sportswriter’s blog:

SEATTLE CLUB SELECTED AS FOUNDING MEMBER OF NEW WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL SOCCER LEAGUE

New League Expected to Feature the Word’s Best Female Soccer Players

Seattle, WA – November 21, 2012 – The United States Soccer Federation today announced that a new club, led by Owner Bill Predmore, has been selected to represent Seattle in a new women’s professional soccer league. In addition to Seattle, the league will feature clubs in Portland, Kansas City, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., Western New York and New Jersey.

So, the “bonus” match this season for each team will apparently be against each team’s supposed rival.

2:12 p.m. – BOSTON BREAKERS PRESS RELEASE

Per the press release, the Breakers will be playing their home matches at Dilboy Stadium, which is the same venue that they played in last year as part of the WPSL Elite league. Details about season tickets are also included.

2:15 p.m. – CHICAGO RED STARS TICKET INFORMATION

The Red Stars (website) will be playing most of their matches at “Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle during 2013, with an additional game or two to be played at Northwestern University.”

2:19 p.m. – CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT AND AUDIO SHOULD BE AVAILABLE

Forgot to mention earlier that a transcript of the conference call, or at least a long quote sheet, plus the audio of the call should be available on U.S. Soccer’s website later today.

2:42 p.m. – GULATI ON THE ECONOMIC MODEL

We are probably looking at a more domestic-focused (domestic as in USA, Canada, And Mexico) league, which will have its pluses and minuses.

3:32 p.m. – ON THE FMF’S INVOLVEMENT

Sixteen is the maximum numbers of players that the FMF will be funding at this time:

On a related note, have yet to see an official news item on the FMF’s websites.

3:34 p.m. – MEET THE KANSAS CITY FRANCHISE

From the press release:

The KC ownership group is being led by Chris Likens, his two sons Brad and Greg Likens along with Brian Budzinski.  A women’s professional soccer team was something the Likens family had been pursuing for some time, just looking for the right opportunity.  The development of this league, with participants such as US Soccer, the fact that it includes Canada and Mexico, makes this league unique in the sports world.

Chris Likens (LinkedIn) is the owner of Nations Holding Company, which “is a recognized name and a leader in nationwide [residential mortgage] information services provided to U.S. banks, realtors, builders, and attorneys.” Likens is previously the owner of a former Arena Football League team, the Kansas City Command (formerly “Brigade”).

One of Nations Holdings’ subsidiaries, Nations Title Agency was the subject of a Federal Trade Commission investigation for mishandling sensitive consumer data (e.g., dumping reports in dumpsters without shredding) and settled the investigation with the FTC without admitting guilt (FTC news release, FTC documents page).

4:24 p.m. – MLSSOCCER.COM WRITE-UP

By Simon Borg, no less (see this HuffingtonPost.com article): Timbers are 1st MLS club to join new women’s pro league.

Though, regarding the Timbers’ involvement, it still seems too early to know what the new team will actually be named. It still could be the “Timbers Women,” especially if the earlier press release’s line about team name was copied from a base template press release drafted by U.S. Soccer.

5:02 p.m. – NIKE APPEARS TO BE THE LIKELY APPAREL SPONSOR

During the conference call, Gulati mentioned that there was a “handshake” agreement between the potential league and a national sponsor. According to Ryan Gates at StumptownFooty.com, that sponsor appears to be Nike, which is based in Oregon, and not Adidas, which sponsors Major League Soccer. The lack of Adidas’ involvement means that MLS franchise names, such as the “Timbers” cannot be used due to Adidas’ exclusive contract with MLS. That contract runs through the 2018 MLS season (ESPN.com).

5:27 p.m. – “SEATTLE SIRENS FC?”

David Falk of goalWA.net has done some web domain name sleuthing and found that “SeattleSirensFC.com” is registered to Bill Predmore of the Seattle franchise group. Currently that domain name redirects to Facebook, but not any particular account (at least for those who are not a member of Facebook). This could be the franchise’s team name, or it could just be some pre-emptive domain name buying. The .org and .net versions of the domain name are available, which hints at the latter.

5:36 p.m. – JEFF CARLISLE’S WRITE-UP

An hour ago, ESPN reporter Jeff Carlisle posted a long article on the new league announcement: Hopes high for new women’s soccer league.

5:52 p.m. – PRESS RELEASE FROM D.C. UNITED WOMEN

Yes, we are the new pro franchise in DC – Key points:

  • The current D.C. United franchise is the D.C. franchise in the new league, but the name will be changing. The new name should be announced on November 28th.
  • The franchise will still play its matches at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
  • The franchise will also have a W-League squad.

5:58 p.m. – CONFERENCE CALL QUOTE SHEET

Here, it is.

Some additional specifics:

Gulati: On the number of players U.S. Soccer will fund —

“There is a financial commitment of the three federations. In the case of the U.S., it’s funding up to 24 players – I say up to. It is our intent to fund 24 players, but if a couple of players decide to for example play in Europe, it might be less than that.”

Gulati: On front office costs —

“U.S. Soccer will absorb all of the costs of running the front office so there is no capital contributions needed to the normal functions of a normal front office of scheduling, promotions, websites. All of those things will be handled by U.S. Soccer.”

Gulati: On franchise selection —

“A number of things. We had an outside, independent accounting firm that looked at the wherewithal of the individual investor operators from the cities. We looked at geography. We looked at the importance of the market. We looked at success of the markets for women’s national team games, for Major League Soccer, for youth soccer, all of those things. We ended up with a cluster of four teams in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, two in the Midwest and two in the Far West. Those were all considered and part of the decision-making process.”