The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

St. Louis Athletica folds, WPS back to 7 teams

The ownership of St. Louis Athletica, which was scheduled to play the Atlanta Beat on Saturday, has decided to fold the team in wake of serious financial troubles but will keep alive its men’s team in the North American Soccer League.

The demise of Athletica means that the Women’s Professional Soccer League is back down to seven teams. In March, the Los Angeles Sol abruptly folded, just as the Beat and Philadelphia Independence were preparing their debuts as expansion teams.

WPS commissioner Tonya Antonucci said the league and the U.S. Soccer Federation pursued options to keep Athletica going through the end of the season, “but the operational hurdles and finances just didn’t work out.”

The Beat will be playing on Saturday at home against the W-League’s Tampa Bay Hellenic. Start time is 7 p.m. at the Kennesaw State soccer stadium, just as it had been scheduled for St. Louis. Beat general manager Shawn McGee explains ticket policies and the schedule from here.

The Beat was to have played at St. Louis on June 12. The next WPS home game for Atlanta is June 19 against the Chicago Red Stars.

Richard Farley, a soccer blogger and supporter of the women’s game, is irate that the women’s team in St. Louis was sacrificed so the men could stay in existence:

“Athletica should have been first. They were the first to play. They are performing better, at a higher level, and for less money. Financially, they are easier to save. Athletica players and fans should have been at the top of the pecking order.”

Kenn Tomasch, a blogger with previous involvement in the always-unsteady world of North American minor league soccer, thinks it’s more about economics than sexism, especially given the stormy split between the USL and the NASL that is far from being resolved:

“All you need to do is look at history and see how many people have, over time, invested in men’s pro outdoor soccer versus the number who have, over time, invested in women’s pro outdoor soccer. . . .

“That’s unfortunate for fans of Athletica – and the women’s game – but it’s economic reality.”

I admire Richard’s passion and understand his anger, but I tend to agree with the latter.

The erstwhile American soccer blogger Fake Sigi says Kenn and I are wrong. I’ve never suggested sexism doesn’t exist; I’m a woman in the sports realm after all. There are plenty of occasions I could have griped about sexist treatment, but discerning truly discriminatory action from what is not requires more than employing the white heat of reflexive anger.

Women’s sports will never grow — and grow up — as long as its denizens instantly whip out the red card of sexism when something doesn’t go their way.

The murky machinations of fraudulent investors and overpromising owners angling for something bigger, then throwing teams under the bus when it turns out they didn’t have the money, is not unique to women’s sports, nor to women’s soccer.

We know all about that sort of thing here in the Atlanta soccer community.

May 27, 2010   6 Comments

Whom will the Atlanta Beat play next?

This is a “bye” week in Women’s Professional Soccer, but the Atlanta Beat and the rest of the league are anxiously awaiting news out of St. Louis that could have a dramatic effect on everyone concerned in the two-year-old league.

That’s because the St. Louis Athletica, scheduled to play the Beat on May 29 at the KSU Soccer Stadium, is in dire financial straits, along with AC St. Louis, which plays in the newly created North American Soccer League.

Both teams share the same owners, two London-based investors who purchased the clubs last winter. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning, Athletica lost an estimated $2 million in 2009, the inaugural season of the WPS, which launched in the heat of the recession.

There’s been no confirmation of a report posted Thursday night on the Major League Soccer Talk blog that the St. Louis teams are on the brink of folding. Nor is there a response to a post at Inside Minnesota Soccer that neither St. Louis team has enough cash to finish the season.

The WPS is operating with eight teams this season, including the expansion Beat and Philadelphia Independence. The Los Angeles Sol, which won the 2009 regular season title and featured Brazil’s Marta, regarded as the best female player in the world, abruptly folded before the season.

Athletica features four prominent U.S. national team members in goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielders Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny and forward Lindsay Tarpley. Solo and Boxx are on the American roster for Saturday’s friendly in Cleveland against Germany (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Update: Things are looking a little better for AC St. Louis, but no word yet on the fate of Athletica.

May 21, 2010   No Comments