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WPS Year 2! League rep talks financial stability, physical play (plus how to get that Marta jersey)

April 8, 2010 – 9:03 AM

LA Sol's Allison Faulk (3) celebrates with Shannon Boxx (7) and Brittany Bock (11) over Washington Freedom's Cat Whitehill (4) and Alex Singer (21) after scoring a goal against the Washington Freedom's Briana Scurry at the WPS season opening game at the Home Depot Center, Sunday, March 29, 2009.

By Lindsay Rico

It’s been a year since the launch of Women’s Professional Soccer. Despite the loss of one of the league’s more prominent teams, the Los Angeles Sol, WPS has shaken the dirt from its cleats and is gearing up for a strong second season. Robert Penner, Director of Communications, shared with FairGameNews league views on the differences between WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association, which folded in 2003) and WPS, how business looks (so far), and how women’s pro soccer is evolving (the ponytail pull not withstanding).

1. Last year, the new league launched in a serious recession. The Sol folded. Will WPS be around for a while?

On the business side, we’ve seen increases in important metrics already this season including an increase in season ticket sales of around 20% among returning teams, local sponsorship gains of about 150% — and another national founding partner for the league with Citi as a national jersey sponsor.  The franchise model developed for this league is the right model giving them flexibility. Local owners can make the adjustments they need at the local level and continue to reach the grassroots soccer communities in their markets. These are all positive factors towards the growth and development of the league.

2. Last fall, the pony tail pulling incident in New Mexico stirred lot of attention — and discussion about the physicality of women’s soccer.  Is WPS more physical than it once was?

The speed and quickness of the game in WPS is a step above college and should be even more exciting to watch in 2010 with the signings of more top internationals and incoming rookies. The sport has just gotten faster and athletes have become stronger through increased conditioning, fitness and nutrition. That also means that the game has become more physical. It’s something our officials and the league office monitor very closely. Fair play and protecting athletes from injury is of the utmost importance in WPS.

3. What is the biggest style difference between WUSA and WPS play?

The depth of women’s soccer across the globe has increased dramatically — even since 2003, the last year WUSA played. We’re seeing countries put more resources behind their national teams and countries that didn’t previously compete on the global level produce more talent. With WPS bringing together top players from 19 different countries, we’re seeing these top players improve the level of the play to a point that we didn’t see in WUSA. Many coaches, players and experts involved in both leagues say the game is of a much higher quality in WPS.

4. It is possible to buy a Marta or Abby Wambach jersey or T-shirt? I didn’t see player T-shirts last year. Isn’t this a key part of growing the team and marketing?

This year on ShopWPS.com, fans will be able to customize jerseys with player names and most every team in the league offered customization in stadium last year and will again this year – so it’s possible to get names on the back of the jerseys. Team logos are standard size across most soccer leagues in the world and we want to be consistent in that sense, so logos are similar to what you see elsewhere in soccer apparel.

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