Women's United Soccer Association

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Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA)
Women's United Soccer Association logo.svg
Country United States
ConfederationCONCACAF (North America)
Number of teams8
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)Founders Cup
Most championshipsBay Area CyberRays
Carolina Courage
Washington Freedom (1 title each)
TV partnersTurner Sports

The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) was the world's first women's soccer league in which all the players were paid as professionals.[1] Founded in February 2000, the league began its first season in April 2001 with eight teams in the United States. The league suspended operations on September 15, 2003, shortly after the end of its third season, after making cumulative losses of around US$100 million.[2]



As a result of the US women's national team's (USWNT) first-place showing in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, a seemingly viable market for the sport germinated.

Feeding on the momentum of their victory, the twenty USWNT players, in partnership with John Hendricks of the Discovery Channel, sought out the investors, markets, and players necessary to form the eight-team league. The twenty founding players were Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain, Tracy Ducar, Lorrie Fair, Joy Fawcett, Danielle Fotopoulos, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Carla Overbeck, Cindy Parlow, Christie Pearce, Tiffany Roberts, Briana Scurry, Kate (Markgraf) Sobrero, Tisha Venturini, Saskia Webber, and Sara Whalen.

Initial investment in the league was provided by the following:[3]

The U.S. Soccer Federation approved membership of the league as a sanctioned Division 1 women's professional soccer league on August 18, 2000.[4]


Media coverage[edit]

At various times, games were televised on TNT, CNNSI, ESPN2, PAX TV, and various local and regional sports channels.[5]


The WUSA franchises were located in Philadelphia; Boston; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Cary, N.C.; Atlanta; San Jose, Ca.; and San Diego:

Team Stadium City Founded Joined WUSA Left Notes
Atlanta Beat Bobby Dodd Stadium Atlanta, Georgia 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
Boston Breakers Nickerson Field Boston, Massachusetts 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
Carolina Courage[i] SAS Stadium Cary, North Carolina 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
New York Power Mitchel Athletic Complex Uniondale, New York 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
Philadelphia Charge Villanova Stadium Villanova, Pennsylvania 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
San Diego Spirit Torero Stadium San Diego, California 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
San Jose CyberRays[ii] Spartan Stadium San Jose, California 2000 2001 2003 Dissolved with league
Washington Freedom RFK Stadium Washington, DC 2000 2001 2003 Hiatus, resumed with USL W-League in 2006
  1. ^ Originally intended to be in Orlando, Florida, and were going to be called the Orlando Tempest
  2. ^ Originally called the Bay Area CyberRays

For the inaugural season, each roster primarily consisted of players from the United States, although up to four international players were allowed on each team's roster. Among the international players were China's Sun Wen, Pu Wei, Fan Yunjie, Zhang Ouying, Gao Hong, Zhao Lihong, and Bai Jie; Germany's Birgit Prinz, Conny Pohlers, Steffi Jones and Maren Meinert; Norway's Hege Riise, Unni Lehn, and Dagny Mellgren; Brazil's Sissi, Kátia and Pretinha; and Canada's Charmaine Hooper, Sharolta Nonen, and Christine Latham.

The league also hosted singular talents from nations which were not then at the forefront of women's soccer, such as Maribel Dominguez of Mexico, Homare Sawa of Japan, Julie Fleeting of Scotland, Cheryl Salisbury of Australia, Marinette Pichon of France, and Kelly Smith of England.

WUSA Awards[edit]

Founders Cup champions[edit]

The Founders Cup (named in honor of the 20 founding players) was awarded to the winner of a four-team, single-elimination postseason playoff.

Season Champion Score Runner-Up City
2001 Bay Area CyberRays 3–3 asdet
4–2 pen
Atlanta Beat Foxboro, MA
2002 Carolina Courage 3–2 Washington Freedom Atlanta, GA
2003 Washington Freedom 2–1 asdet Atlanta Beat San Diego, CA

"asdet" stands for "after sudden death extra time". WUSA's sudden death overtime was 15 minutes long (two 7½-minute periods) and used only in the playoffs.

League suspension[edit]

The WUSA played for three full seasons, suspending operations on September 15, 2003, shortly after the conclusion of the third season. Neither television ratings nor attendance met forecasts, while the league spent its initial $40 million budget, planned to last five years, by the end of the first season. Even though the players took salary cuts of up to 30% for the final season, with the founding players (who also held an equity stake in the league) taking the largest cuts, that was not enough to bring expenses under control. In the hopes of an eventual relaunch of the league, all rights to team names, logos, and similar properties were preserved. Efforts to line up new sources of capital and operating funds continued. In June 2004, the WUSA held two "WUSA Festivals" in Los Angeles and Blaine, Minnesota, featuring matches between reconstituted WUSA teams (often with marquee players borrowed from other teams), in order to maintain the league in the public eye and sustain interest in women's professional soccer.[6]

With the WUSA on hiatus, the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and the W-League regained their status as the premier women's soccer leagues in the United States, and many former WUSA players joined those teams.[7]

A new women's professional soccer league in the United States called Women's Professional Soccer started in 2009. However, that league suspended operations in January 2012.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hellborg, Anna Maria (November 21, 2012). "The Challenges of Women's Professional Soccer in the US A theoretically and empirically informed discussion" (PDF). idrottsforum.org: 15. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  2. ^ King, Bill. "Confident, yes, but can new league survive?". Sport Business Journal. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  3. ^ Miller, Gretchen; Scheyer, Jonathan; Sherrard, Emily. "Women's United Soccer Association". Soccer Politics. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  4. ^ "WUSA Granted U.S. Soccer Membership as Division I Women's Professional Soccer League". USSF. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  5. ^ "Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) Announces Television Coverage for Every Game During Inaugural Season". USSF. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Longman, Jere. "SOCCER; Women's Soccer League Folds on World Cup's Eve". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  7. ^ Smith, Michelle. "SOCCER / Collapse of WUSA leaves void / College, pro players ponder their futures". San Francisco Gate. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Bell, Jack. "Goal Goal The New York Times Soccer Blog W.P.S. Suspends Operations". The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2019.

Preceded by
Division 1 soccer league in the United States
Succeeded by