When the league suspended operations, five teams remained, including the Kennesaw-based Atlanta Beat, but in October south Florida-based magicJack was terminated by the league. Its owner, Dan Borislow, was at odds with WPS officials throughout the 2011 season for the club’s failure to meet league standards.
Two months prior to his team’s dismissal from WPS, Borislow had filed a lawsuit in a Florida circuit court to force the league into arbitration for attempting to terminate the franchise. From that point, through Friday’s league demise, the feuding parties remained mired in court.
However, WPS released a statement on its Facebook page Friday that the league and Borislow had come to a settlement in that lawsuit.
Despite having the lawsuit behind them, league officials still made the decision to cease operations permanently.
Fitz Johnson, owner of the Atlanta Beat and chairman of the WPS board, did not return calls for comment, but he released a statement offering his regrets for the league’s demise.
“We sincerely regret having to take this course of action,” Johnson said in the statement.
Although the league pointed to litigation being the primary issue for terminating operations, several other factors seemed to contribute to its demise. Borislow believes that a lack of aid from the U.S. Soccer Federation was a contributing factor.
“This is the biggest women’s sport in the U.S., and for them to continue to (give) a couple million per year is less than a drop in the bucket,” he said.
“It ought to be mandated that that’s exactly what happens. The federation should give money to a well-run, well-organized league for a long time. If you have to point fingers at somebody, it’s not the players, it’s not the owners — the federation should help come up with a better business model and contribute to it.”
Borislow went on to say that there is an unfair disparity between the amounts the federation contributes for its men’s and women’s teams.
“The federation was charging (WPS) for what ended up being lousy referees,” he said. “I don’t know why the federation would want to charge instead of just give. It turned out to be a burden, and it continued to be a burden to the women’s game.
“They want to pay a coach (Jurgen Klinsmann) $4 million for men’s coaching, and they don’t have more than $2 million to run a whole women’s league. Is that pretty pathetic?”
Meanwhile, the Boston Breakers released a statement saying that the economy as a whole contributed to the league’s problems.
“Unfortunately, collectively, we decided that the number of issues we faced as a league, along with the overall economic considerations, were just too much to overcome presently,” Breakers managing partner Michael Stoller in the statement.
In addition to the economic recession, and rocky relations with the U.S. Soccer Federation, other factors included in WPS’ downfall were porous attendance prior to the Women’s World Cup, high overhead costs relative to the league’s respective teams’ total revenues and overall problems with the league’s business model.
When asked about the WPS business model in February, following the league’s decision to suspend the 2012 season, Philadelphia Independence David Halstead said it needed to be changed.
“I wouldn’t say tweaks. I would say overhauls,” he said. “We had fairly obvious business model changes that needed to be made. If we did not have litigation issues, we could have chipped away at those issues over time, and we would have been able to fix some of these things and would not have suspended operations.”
Despite the loss of WPS, professional women’s soccer hasn’t gone dormant in the U.S. Unlike the fallout following the demise of the Women’s United Soccer Association in 2003, there are other options for players looking to play professionally.
“WPS is a brand name,” former Atlanta Beat midfielder McCall Zerboni tweeted. “its not like top notch pro soccer for women in the US has dissolved to inexistence. Its just called something else now.”
After WPS suspended the 2012 season, the Women’s Professional Soccer League announced the creation of an “elite” or professional division. The WPSL had existed in a semi-professional or amateur setting before.
The WPSL’s elite division currently has eight teams, including former WPS franchises from Boston, Western New York and Chicago. Most of the teams within the new league have acquired players from the former WPS.
In addition to the WPSL, United Soccer League’s W-League also has its own professional teams that include several former WPS players and current members of the U.S. women’s national team.
Johnson told ESPNW.com that the Beat franchise will not be continuing in any other league.
With the dissolution of the Beat, the closest option for women’s soccer in Atlanta is now the W-League’s Atlanta Silverbacks, who won the semi-pro league’s championship last year. They play out of a stadium in northeast Atlanta.