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Eyes on WPS, AEG as Los Angeles Sol Folds

Losangelessol Eyes on WPS, AEG as Los Angeles Sol Folds

The Los Angeles Sol ceased operations on Thursday, WPS announced.

On Thursday, Women’s Professional Soccer announced their cornerstone franchise – the Los Angeles Sol – will fold.

Formerly owned by Anschultz Entertainment Group (owners of the Los Angeles Galaxy, part-owners of the Houston Dynamo), the Sol leave WPS after an inaugural season where they finished with the league’s best record before losing to Sky Blue FC in the finals. With the league’s trademark player, Brazilian attacker Marta, the Sol were the young league’s most recognizable brand.

On Thursday, WPS announced that they would be folding the team. The league had been controlling the Sol since November, when AEG turned the team over to WPS. In that time, new ownership had been unsuccessfully sought, with the last chance to have a new owner in place falling apart “in the 11th hour.”

The league will proceed into the new season with eight teams and attempt to move back into the L.A. market in 2011.

FC Gold Pride, the league’s Bay Area club, is now the only team west of St. Louis.

The league will hold a dispersal draft next Thursday, allocating players like Marta, Shannon Boxx, Brittany Bock, Karina LeBlanc, and Aya Miyama to other franchises. For foreign players like Marta, LeBlanc and Miyama, finding new homes is complicated by league rules which limit the number of active foreign players on rosters to five. Some teams have already filled their foreign player slots.

Los Angeles was said to have lost $2 million last year, with Marta, the league’s highest earner, being paid $500,000. Payroll plus the cost of renting Home Depot Center may have complicated potential sales.

Though the league made commissioner Tonya Antonucci available Thursday to address the situation, AEG did not comment – a disappointing silence, considering AEG’s intentions with the Sol must be questioned in light of their unwillingness to extend their stewardship of the team.

AEG had only committed to help get the club started; however, their decision to leave the team before a buyer was found – eventually forcing WPS to fold the club – begs a question: What did AEG expect from this endeavor when they undertook it before the 2009 season?

How did WPS and the Sol fail to meet that expectation?

There may be a reasonable explanation, one that AEG may offer in the coming days.

Regardless, women’s soccer took a hit on Thursday.  Women’s Professional Soccer is the best women’s league in the world, but yet to start its second season, it’s difficult to determine where the league stands now that the team with the highest profile has folded.  From everything I’ve heard from people inside the clubs and league, the AEG-relationship was so unique that there is little to generalize from these circumstances.

The externalities, however – be it a hit to the brand or the loss of a key market – will have to be measured throughout 2010.

More information:

30 Responses to Eyes on WPS, AEG as Los Angeles Sol Folds

  1. Eddie says:

    might want to fix this line:

    “FC Gold Pride, the league’s Bay Area club, is now the long team west of St. Louis.”

    • Richard Farley says:

      Thanks, Eddie. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more errors. I did do a spell check and a proof read, but I was really tired when I posted the two things I did last night. That’s not best practice on my part, but I want to discuss. Again, thanks.

  2. This is one of the worst bits of news of the past year in American soccer.

    I can only say I am sick to my stomach about it. Actually that is being mild. When we got the news, from a reporter who had the story before it broke, I was depressed and upset.

    I am sure AEG had their reasons for doing this, but from my vantage point, the whole thing is terrible.

  3. OleGunnar20 says:

    uh. who cares. like professional soccer in the us doesn’t have enough problems without trying to drag around the dead weight of a women’s league. maybe the NBA with all of its riches can subsidize the painful abomination that is the WNBA but the MLS can barely put an internationally competitive and lucrative television product on the field as it is. No MLS team or ownership group should be wasting their time with women’s soccer. No offence but even watching the USWNT, supposedly the best in the world, is boring and wretched soccer as lovely as those girls might be. The USMNT does enough to sully the beautiful game in the minds of potential US sports fans without adding a league of 8 women’s teams doing even more damage to the sport in the minds of potential fans. The sport needs more Beckhams and Henrys and Angels and Blancos to capture the imagination, more MLS teams holding their own in friendlies vs Chelsea and Barcelona and more passionate crowds like in Seattle and Toronto and less flushing $500K down the toilet on Marta. Little girls who love football in England and Brazil don’t long to be Mia Hamm or Marta, they long to be Steven Gerrard and Kaka, just like the boys. US soccer and the MLS need to realize that all of those little girls who play football and the few fans that did attend the WPS are potential fans for them and go after them by offering a better football product and put the useless WPS out of business.

    • Adam Edg says:

      I hate to admit this, but I agree with OleGunnar. Womens’ sports in general are a joke – at any level. Hardly any fans go and they eat as much money as mens’ sports – outside of salaries (except Marta who made more than all but the designated players in MLS). There is too little demand for a womens’ professional league in any sport – the WNBA might not be around that much longer either from what I have heard.
      Womens’ sport have hurt colleges too as schools have to cut mens’ programs – almost all of which are more popular than their female counterparts – to comply with Title IX. Without Title IX, there would be more mens’ soccer and lacrosse programs across the country and both sports would have more players committing to the games at a younger age, mirroring basketball and American football. In turn both pro sports’ leagues would have a greater influx of available players and would develop greater fanbases, again like basketball and football. As sexist as it sounds, we should axe the requirement to have womens’ sports.
      The lone exception to this is beach volleyball. In fact, that sport should not have a Mens’ league. : )
      I know I will probably get flamed, but reality needs to kick in here. Womens’ sports are not popular enough to have pro leagues and they never will be. AEG was smart to dump this sinkhole.

      • Richard Farley says:

        Womens’ sports are not popular enough to have pro leagues and they never will be.

        Take this statement back 30 years and put “Soccer is” in place for “Womens’ sports are” and you have a statement that describes most U.S. sports fans’ view towards soccer.

        Actually, you don’t even have to go back 30 years.

        AEG was smart to dump this sinkhole.

        If AEG made similar decisions at similar junctions of their MLS interests’ maturing phases, MLS would not exist.

        And that’s the point. Why the different standard?

        There are good reasons for AEG’s decisions, including business prerogative. To use them exercising that prerogative as a reason to chastise all women’s sport is a reach.

    • Richard Farley says:

      uh. who cares.

      As I noted on Twitter yesterday, for most of Friday, this article was the most read on this site.

      So there are two possible answers to your question:

      a.) Not you.
      b.) Many others.

      I’m not asking you to care any more than I’m asking a Red Bull fan to follow United.

      You may just want to skip over WPS content in the future.

      And I am not going to try and shove WPS content at people here, at MLS Talk. This, however, was a huge story, it has ties to AEG – a major entity within MLS – and it is not beyond scope for MLS Talk to discuss issues within the view of Major League Soccer, even it is a tangential view.

  4. AllWhiteKit says:

    Right, let’s just axe all of women’s sports altogether everywhere because WPS clubs lost money on during their FIRST YEAR of operation and women aren’t as fast or strong as men.

    Let’s just give the millions and million of young girls who play athletics in this country until, say, high school to participate in sports but then deny them the opportunity to play collegiately because it would suck money out of Men’s programs (such as the ever-popular men’s lacrosse or water polo…programs sure to bring in the crowds if only it weren’t for those silly women’s teams and their silly expenses) because men are inherently more deserving to play sports because they’re men, duh.
    And professionally? Hah, forget ever actually GETTING PAID for playing sports if you’re a woman. Because very few people in this country can actually get their minds around the idea of a girl who’s actually good at sports. And nobody will actually want to see you play either.

    Besides, little girls don’t aspire to be like women athletes when they grow up at all. No, they want to be like men. Men who have benefited from a culture of entitlement and chauvinism. A culture that reinforces the same moronic, sexist vile in the posts above. Because where are these little girls’ female role models? They’re struggling everyday to find a foothold on a playing field that may never be level, stripped of the most basic privileges and opportunities given to their male counterparts.

    If you’re a female athlete, well that’s too bad. You were born the wrong sex.

    Seriously, if you don’t want to support women’s sports then that’s fine. But you certainly must find the argument of “there should not be women’s sports at all because they’ll never be popular and the quality will always be poor” slightly problematic.

    • dhines says:

      i don’t see anyone saying that we should can anything other than womens professional soccer. bottom line, they don’t make money and that is what pro sports are all about. i worked for the LA lakers when the sparks first came out, and i can say first hand, for at least the first 3-4 seasons (that is when i worked for them) a huge majority of those buts in the seats were comp’ed seats.

      point of fact, if a league doesn’t pull in ratings on the TV . . . it won’t survive. everyone knows that womens soccer and womens basketball will never be a money maker, so why waste the time?

      btw, if you think it is such a great investment . . . why don’t you offer to buy a share of the team?

      • Richard Farley says:

        bottom line, they don’t make money and that is what pro sports are all about.

        I disagree. That is not what professional sports is all about. There are plenty of teams in many sports all around the world that lose money. That said, that’s not the point here. AEG’s prerogative to not lose money should be respected.

        However, if you are saying that teams should fold if they are not making money, then I can not think of one sports league that would have ever survived after one year.

        And, according to Forbes, only three MLS teams were profitable in 2008.

        So are you ready for a three team league?

    • Richard Farley says:

      If you’re a female athlete, well that’s too bad. You were born the wrong sex.

      The irony in this statement is really what covering women’s sports is about. Not only is the women’s game fine for players and spectator alike, but it provides women the same opportunities men have always been afforded.

      I would love to hear the person whose willing to tell their 12-year-old daughter “you can’t play soccer. You’re not a boy. You love the sport? Too bad. You’re a girl. Act like it.”

  5. lester says:

    Great news!

    The less competition for MLS in MLS cities the better. I wish the whole WPS, commie socialist effort to froce woman’s lib down our throats would go away.

    I do not know why MLS was even helping them. Kudos to AEG for wising up.

    • Richard Farley says:

      I wish the whole WPS, commie socialist effort to froce woman’s lib down our throats would go away.

      We have a winner! Sexism plus red scare, plus scarecows and red herrings both!

      Consider your self-identification successful.

      Seriously: I’m not trying to force women’s coverage down anybody’s throats. This is an MLS blog, and only the truly exceptional stories, I’d bring up. If a major club in the FMF up and folded, I’d post something, too.

      You always have the option to just not read the story. You certainly have the option to not comment.

  6. FCShambles says:

    Yeah, y’all are right. Who cares about womens sports? In fact, who cares about women? I say we just go ahead and get rid of the both of them. Then, we can just sit around in peace and quiet and watch football. In fact, I love football and men hitting each other so much, that nothing makes me feel more manly then watching football in a room full of men.

    Y’all are idiots. Personally, womens soccer isn’t my cup of tea, but you know what, having a strong womens league in the United States is good for sports landscape as a whole. While you may not like womens soccer, or womens sports for that matter, you should at least want the sport to succeed. The Sol folding is bad for womens soccer, which means it is bad for soccer in the US.

  7. ljbarks says:

    Who cares? We all should care, regardless of if we’re “fans” of the women’s game or not, because first and foremost aren’t we all soccer fans? Don’t we all want the same thing in the end, to grow the game in US?

    Young girls don’t want to grow up to be Beckham, Henry, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Messi. They want to grow up and PLAY like them, just like they want to grow up to play like Marta, Wambach, Rampone, Christiane, Solo. Telling them that they can’t just because they’re girls would be a shame, and not just for soccer, not just sports, but in a broader sense. If a young girl knows that she’s NEVER going to grow and play the game collegiately or *gasp* professionally, why even try? Why not just stay on the couch watching TV or surfing the internet or whatever kids do these days? Why even dream of being the next Beckham, Henry, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Messi?

    Cut those players off at the knees, tell every young girl “well you can dream of being (or playing like) Beckham but only until you’re 14. Then you have to get serious, stop dreaming, find something that doesn’t involve being an athlete, because girls can’t be athletes.” That alienates a huge chunk of the population – not to mention their friends, families, etc. – from the game. And guess what: those young girls, their families, etc. go to MLS games, support the USMNT too. But why would they, why SHOULD they, if they know at the age of ten they’ve only got a few more years until the sport turns its back on them?

    When Sky Blue won the WPS championship, did it mean any less to those players, their fans, than it did to the fans or players on MLS Cup winners Real Salt Lake? When the USWNT lost to Brazil in the 2007 World Cup did the defeat somehow become less crushing because they’re girls? You may not be a fan of the women’s game, but watch Christie Rampone, watch Marta, watch Shannon Boxx, watch ANY of the players in WPS and tell me that they don’t play with the same love for the game, the same PASSION for the game that men do. In the end, isn’t that what it’s about? The game?

    As soccer fans, not men’s fans or women’s fan’s or MLS fans or WPS fans or whatever, we have a responsibility. One that transcends the nonsense, transcends gender, and focuses on the larger goal: supporting the game, period.

    • OleGunnar20 says:

      did you learn all of this at some touchy feely retreat? i like good football. passion and love of the game is only part of what makes good football. women’s football is shite. period. end of story. even at the highest of high levels it is rubbish to watch.

      when the most ‘famous’ football players in your country are women and their game is what is foremost in the nation’s mind when they think of “soccer” you have a problem. thankfully gone are the days when the USWNT are the darlings of the country for their ‘personalities’ and ‘charm’ in spite of their craptastic football product. things are at least moving in the right direction and the death of women’s professional soccer will be another step.

      face it people don’t want to watch women’s football or basketball. therefore they will NEVER succeed as professional sports in the US. wasting everybody’s time, money and effort trying to force it down an unreceptive audiences throat. the closer the MLS and men’s soccer in the US ties itself to this misguided idea the more it will suffer.

      just because you have a passion and love for something does not mean you are entitled to get to do it for a living. girls should have every opportunity to play amateur sports like boys, (tho i do agree that title IX should exclude american football to be fair to secondary men’s sports) where participation and enjoyment are more important than profitability, but there is no such similarity for professional sports. if women want to make money and a living by being an athlete then i suggest they take up a sport that people want to watch like tennis or beach volleyball, otherwise tough sh*t.

      • Richard Farley says:

        First you allude to the problem of the women’s game being at the forefront (second paragraph) and then you say people don’t want to watch it (third paragraph).

        And I agree that people aren’t entitled to make money at the things they love. Nobody who supports the women’s game is claiming entitlement. Those supporters just wonder why people seem to go out of their way to deride something which they could more easily just ignore.

        It’s the active (if unorganized) campaigning against the game that’s worrisome. It is as if some people are threatened by people enjoying the women’s game.

        Perhaps that explains the contradictions of your second and third paragraphs?

        Regardless, just skip over these articles if you’d like. There is other great content on MLS Talk for you to enjoy.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Agree, ljbarks. At a minimum, people have the option to just passively ignore. I understand people who are not into WPS. I don’t understand why people get fired-up in opposition.

  8. Adam Edg says:

    The funny thing is that I fully support womens’ sports and female athletes. No, I really do. I have several friends that played just about every sport out there during college. Most were scholarship athletes too.
    What I meant by “Womens sports are a joke” is that very few people care at all. Attendance is usually all but nonexistent for most. TV ratings are worse. They continue to be money losing ventures. It is normal for a first year league to lose money, but WNBA is still bleeding cash and it has been around for how long now?
    Do I think female athletes should have nothing beyond high school? Of course not. But I do feel that Title IX does more harm than good. It forces schools to attempt to field womens’ programs when the interest is not there – from fans, alumni, and even the girls that are supposed to be playing. Should mens’ athletics be shortchanged because there are no female athletes out there? I would love nothing more than for every school to have a matching male and female sport, but there simply are not enough female athletes coming out at most schools. At least that is one of the major reasons given by many ADs when asked why they are not adding men’s lacrosse or soccer. They often use women’s lax and soccer to offest football. Of course if we could dump football (ha) or at least give it an exemption, things might be different.
    In response to “such as the ever-popular men’s lacrosse” I have to point out that the NCAA D1 lax championships are the second highest in attendance and revenue after March Madness. NCAA soccer does not even compare. Lax is also the fastest growing game in the US at the moment.
    I agree that we, as fans of the game, should support the game. If there was a W-League or WPS team in Des Moines, I would make to many of their games. I went to Drake women and Grand View women when I attended those schools, just like the mens’ teams. However, I do not think AEG is necessarily wrong for jumping off what they saw as a sinking ship. It is their money and the situation was temporary. Everybody knew that coming in. Is it AEG’s responsibility to waste their money while WPS realizes that nobody wants to buy the SOL?

    • Richard Farley says:

      I don’t think AEG is necessarily wrong, either. We’ll see what they have to say. They are starting to hint that they’ll be making people available for comment, though we’ll see.

      Thanks for clarifying your comment about women’s sports being a “joke.”

      But just because they meet your standard for “joke” does not mean the people who do enjoy following them should stop doing so.

      Right?

  9. MR says:

    The only thing I have to say is that reading what ljbarks wrote sent chills down my spine and I agree 100% with that.

  10. Jason says:

    Someone had to write a FOUR PART SERIES on the implications of this?

    A soccer team folded. It happens all the time in this country. Move on.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Actually, the series will have six parts.

      Yes … teams with the marque player in the world, who won their regular season, who have only been in existence for one year, who are playing in the highest quality league in the world …

      They fold all the time.

      My bad.

  11. Joey Clams says:

    I’m not going to say that women’s sports are a joke. But I’m not going to attempt to bolster my Alan Alda quotient by emoting over any team’s, or any league’s, demise. In the case of the Sol, I don’t care. If WPS folded I wouldn’t care. I don’t wish that on them. But I’m not going to pretend give a rat’s. My days of notching the belt at Smith and Mount Holyoke are over, anyway.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Your inference is that a man can’t cover/care about WPS without being suspected of trying to (inferring from your implication) get laid?

      How can you trust such media, Joey? You may just want to not consume. You are clearly not predisposed to being objective about the coverage. There are other great pieces on this blog about the men’s game.

      Though I wouldn’t trust any content on MLS that’s written by a woman. She might be looking to get some, too.

  12. dhines says:

    I DEMAND EQUALITY!

    therefore, i say we throw out all women’s professional leagues and open up all mens professional leagues to the ladies. those that can cut it, god bless and join in. either that, or i demand a mens basketball league for men under 5’6”, over 35 and overweight.

    get my point?

    i think that some of these ladies are good enough to play with the boys, and after all . . . isn’t that what equality is all about? i have no issues with college leagues and below being broken out by age and sex, as they are dev leagues.

    once people make it to be a professional, it shouldn’t matter your country of origin, sex, race, ethnicity . . . all that should matter is how you play.

    • Richard Farley says:

      Oh, we get your point, dhines, though I’m not sure you can call it yours. After all, that’s the view that’s been around ever since women have tried to start professional leagues.

      The “play with the boys” argument can be seen as a way for the people currently in power in sport to continue their control.

      The structure/implication of your “if you’re not good enough” argument can also be applied to minor league sports. “If you’re not good enough to play in the majors, you can’t play.”

      Your argument can also be applied to Major League Soccer. “If you’re not good enough to play in England or Spain, you can’t play.”

      But maybe – and this is just a random thought – maybe MLS exists because people in this country want to see a men’s league. Same in Germany, France, Russia. Maybe those leagues exist because of demand? After all, people have to know that those leagues aren’t the best. Yet, people still want to watch the inferentially “inferior” product.

      Funny that.

      And maybe – again, just thinking out loud – maybe the market for women’s professional sport is what’s driving endeavors like WPS? Maybe people are OK with that fact that almost every WPS player would not have a job in MLS. Maybe people want what WPS is trying to give them?

      Screw that. Those people a dumb. Women need to compete with men. Men need to compete with the best men. Else, what’s the point?

  13. sara says:

    Guys, unfortunately the economics have changed. Since most men no longer provide for women, the appeal of men has somewhat declined. If men are nice and respectful that’s one thing, but without that you’re kind of pointless and not too much fun to be around. So you’re faster, big deal.

    Your comments are great advertisements for WPS. If more women read these they would not buy MLS tickets to be around people like you.

  14. steve says:

    Would love for some reporter to ask the league why they didn’t require as a condition of ownership that any owner (a) commit to own the team and support the league for at least five years, with a right to sell to a third party during that five year period only upon notice and approval by the league; and (b) require of all owners that, if any owner was financially unable to support the team (not the case with AEG, which just decided to abandon womens soccer despite its multi-billionaire owner), the league would support that team in administration until a new owner could be found (a la Leeds or soon to be Portsmouth in UK)? Those would seem to be fairly basic requirements for any successful sports league, and I’m sure something like that exists in the franchise agreements for every other league. Does WPS just not have that or did AEG somehow negotiate its way out of those requirements?

    My kids – 8, 6 and 4 — liked this team at least as much as they like the Lakers, and are just sick about this. The team was a success by any measure, and with marginally competent marketing and cheaper parking would be just fine.

  15. Jeff Kassouf says:

    Steve: Those are very valid questions. To focus on (b), it is important to understand the structure of the league. It is not a single entity league. In a single entity league, the situation you describe is exactly what would have happened. Los Angeles falling apart or folding would have hit the pockets of every single owner. The entire league would take on the burden of the team, and it is that kind of system that drove WUSA to fail. What the league is saying – and I think it has value – is that the positive thing here is that as bad as the news is, it is no indication of the other eight “strong” owners (I quote that to quote it, not question).

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