Women's Professional Soccer suspends 2012 season
Canadian star Christine Sinclair, others scramble to find teams
Three days after leading the Canadian women's soccer team to the Olympics, captain Christine Sinclair finds herself without a club side for the 2012 season.
Women's Professional Soccer won't play this year amid a legal dispute with an ousted owner. The league's board of governors voted Monday to suspend the season with hopes of resuming in 2013.
The decision to suspend the WPS season left many players, including Sinclair, scrambling because the announcement came the same day a FIFA international transfer window was due to close.
"I'm just trying to figure everything out with where I'm going to go play," Sinclair told a reporter between calls to find a new team.
Sinclair and fellow Canadian international Candace Chapman played for the league-champion Western New York Flash last season. Karina LeBlanc played for the magicJack franchise at the centre of the dispute and Lauren Sesselman played for the Atlanta Beat.
Chapman and LeBlanc joined Sky Blue FC last November.
In October, the WPS terminated its South Florida franchise after clashing with owner Dan Borislow all season. A Florida judge ruled earlier this month that the league failed to follow its own dispute procedures when it terminated the franchise, and another court hearing is set for Wednesday.
WPS CEO Jennifer O'Sullivan said owners chose to cancel the season over possibly working with Borislow in the league again.
"We have diverted so many resources into litigation," she said. "This is something that needs to be resolved before we can move forward with play."
Borislow purchased the former Washington Freedom before last season and moved the club to South Florida, renaming it after a telephone call device he invented. The magicJack franchise was repeatedly disciplined during the season for not meeting league standards. In August, after Borislow filed suit against the WPS, the league released a statement accusing him of violations ranging from "unprofessional and disparaging treatment of his players to failure to pay his bills."
Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, whose organization has assisted national women's player development in the past, said he was disappointed by the WPS decision.
"The kinds of opportunities that WPS provided for the top women players were beneficial to the players not just in the United States and Canada, but all over the world as well," said Lenarduzzi. "It's disappointing, but from our perspective we'll carry on and keep doing what we're doing with our W-League team."
The well established W-League, open to amateur players, is a tier below WPS talent-wise. However, the pro circuit gave W-League players something to aspire to.
"What's important to us is that the best female players have an opportunity to get to the highest level possible and along the way be compensated for it," said Lenarduzzi. "The fact that that opportunity is, at least for this year, not available is disappointing for the women's game in general."
WPS has played three seasons. It needed a waiver from the U.S. Soccer Federation to be sanctioned as a first-division league in 2012 with only five teams, below the required eight. In the deal with the governing body in December, WPS agreed to increase the number of teams to a minimum of six for 2013 and at least eight for 2014.
Lenarduzzi, a former national men's team coach and player, said the WPS season suspension will force Canadian women's team players and coach John Herdman to adjust their Olympic preparation, but the circumstances are nothing new. The women's team is used to training without the benefit of having a top pro league in which to play.
"If the players are playing in the very best league against the very best players, that would be optimal," said Lenarduzzi. "The problem that they'll have for these upcoming Olympics would have been the case in advance of WPS [being formed], so it won't be something coaches and players aren't used to dealing with."
With files from The Canadian Press