Women's soccer league suspends operations

The Women's United Soccer Association shut down operations Monday, just five days before the Women's World Cup, saying it did not have enough money to stay in business for a fourth season.

The Atlanta-based league's board of governors made the decision at a meeting in New York.

"A shortfall in sponsorship revenue and insufficient revenue from other core areas of the business proved to be the hurdles which the WUSA could not overcome in time for planning the 2004 season," said John Hendricks, chairman of the WUSA board of governors.

The eight-team professional league was founded by the 20 members of the 1999 U.S. World Cup championship team and was funded through corporate sponsorship and television deals.

"The impact of the WUSA on women's sports and millions of fans has been extraordinary," said Julie Foudy, captain of the San Diego Spirit and U.S. World Cup team and a member of the WUSA board of governors.

The league boasted the world's top female soccer players, including 19 members of the 2003 U.S World Cup team and 37 stars from other World Cup teams.

Five Canadian national team members played in WUSA -- Ottawa's Charmaine Hooper and Vancouver's Sharolta Nonen (Atlanta Beat), Edmonton's Breanna Boyd (Carolina Courage), Calgary's Christine Latham (San Diego Spirit) and Maple Ridge, B.C.'s Karina Leblanc (Boston Breakers).

Hooper, who captains the Canadian women's team, finished the season tied for second in WUSA all-time scoring. She is also one of two players to have registered double digits in goals in each of the WUSA's three seasons.

The aggressive striker led the Beat to the championship game this season, only to lose to the Washington Freedom.

Canada's other WUSA players have also been successful. Nonen, was a finalist for defender of the year, while Latham, a striker, was chosen WUSA's top rookie this season.

LeBlanc, a goalkeeper, and Boyd, a defender, joined Hooper and Nonen on world team in the 2003 WUSA all-star game.

Foudy said she hopes the attention surrounding the women's World Cup will bring back support to keep WUSA alive.

"The positive impact our sport has had on youth players, both boys and girls, and their perception of women and athletics, has been inspiring to experience firsthand," she said.

with files from Canadian Press