If you haven’t heard today’s news, click here.
And yes, the sun has indeed set on the Sol despite a press release from the Women’s Premier Soccer League that just arrived in my inbox that insists:
“Yet, it still may not be too late to save the franchise. If another investor group jumped into the fray within the next week, scheduling for the Sol for the upcoming season could be easily worked out in time.”
No, it can’t, said Women’s Professional Soccer Commissioner Tonya Antonucci who spoke this afternoon to 100 Percent Soccer:
“We had a buyer for the L.A. Sol which regrettably fell through in the 11th hour. Not only did (the sale) fall through, it’s right up against the steps we need to take to get on with business for 2010.”
She said that Anschutz Entertainment Group had pledged to get the franchise started, but had never intended to stay for the long-term.
Antonucci said this is not the first step in the eventual folding of the league, as some observers believe:
“Regrettably, it hurts to lose a major media market in our early growth stage. But we don’t believe, nor do we believe fans believe, this is a statement on the viability of Women’s Professional Soccer. … Ticket sales have surpassed where they were last year (elsewhere), sponsorship sales are beyond where they were last year. It’s not as if expectations are out of the ordinary. We’re surviving, we see an uptick. This is a setback we’re going to get past.
“We have eight strong, committed ownership groups in eight markets. If anything they’ve gotten more united in the course of this process.”
On whether the WPS hopes to return to Southern California:
“We’ll keep the brand. … This now becomes an (expansion) priority for us. We think it’s a very viable market.”
Antonucci said a WPS team could return to L.A. as soon as 2011.
Antonucci said players such as Marta, Torrance’s Shannon Boxx and Aya Miyama have guaranteed contracts and will be picked up by other teams:
“What’s actually going to happen is that the other eight teams are going to get stronger.”
It’s unclear whether Sol sponsor Amway will remain a partner in WPS, although because the company also has a personal endorsement deal with Marta, Antonucci said she believes the company may wait to see which club picks up Marta’s playing rights.
Sol GM Charlie Naimo did not return a phone call seeking comment.