Women's United Soccer Association
|Confederation||CONCACAF (North America)|
|Number of teams||8|
|Level on pyramid||1 (USA)|
|Domestic cup(s)||Founders Cup|
|Most championships||Bay Area CyberRays
Washington Freedom (1 title each)
|TV partners||Turner Sports|
The Women's United Soccer Association, often abbreviated to the WUSA, was the world's first women's soccer league in which all the players were paid as professionals. 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.
Feeding on the momentum of their victory, the twenty US WNT 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:
- Time Warner Cable $5 million
- Cox Enterprises $5 million
- Cox Communications $5 million
- Amos Hostetter, Jr. $5 million
- Comcast Corporation $5 million
- John Hendricks and Comcast Corporation $2.5 million each
- Amos Hostetter, Jr. and John Hendricks $2.5 million each
The US Soccer Federation approved membership of the league as a sanctioned Division 1 women's professional soccer league on August 18, 2000.
- Atlanta Beat
- Boston Breakers
- Carolina Courage (originally intended to be in Orlando, Florida, and were going to be called the Orlando Tempest)
- New York Power
- Philadelphia Charge
- San Diego Spirit
- San Jose CyberRays (called Bay Area CyberRays for 2001 season)
- Washington Freedom
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 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.
Founders Cup champions
The Founders Cup (named in honor of the 20 founding players) was awarded to the winner of a four-team, single-elimination postseason playoff.
|2001||Bay Area CyberRays||3–3 asdet
|Atlanta Beat||Foxboro, MA|
|2002||Carolina Courage||3–2||Washington Freedom||Atlanta, GA|
|2003||Washington Freedom||2–1 asdet||Atlanta Beat||San Diego, CA|
WUSA's sudden death overtime was 15 minutes long (2-seven and a half minute periods) and only used in the play-offs.
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 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.
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.
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- "WUSA Granted U.S. Soccer Membership as Division I Women's Professional Soccer League". US Soccer. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "Turner Sports, Women’s United Soccer Association Announce Exclusive Multi-Year Television Agreement". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "Cash-strapped WUSA folds five days before Women's World Cup". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "Hamm's imprint made on new women's soccer league". USA Today. January 18, 2008.
- "WPS Suspends Play for 2012 Season". League Website. January 30, 2012.
- "W.P.S. Suspends Operations". New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- Foudy, Julie. "WPS suspension a setback for women's soccer". ESPN. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- Hays, Graham. "WUSA collapse leaves void in sports". ESPN. Retrieved 20 October 2012.