New women’s soccer league: Must be some misunderstanding

Going pro at the Soccerplex again?

While the USA’s post-Olympic tour rolls on, a quiet effort to rebuild pro soccer in this country is still in progress. It’s hard to gauge how well that effort is going because much of it is going on in private. Meanwhile, the public information is either dispiriting or tawdry, depending on your point of view.

By now, many women’s soccer fans have read the Shaun Assael/Peter Keating/Lizzie Haldane story on magicJack in ESPN magazine’s “franchise issue.”  The story, with the clever headline “MAGICTRICK,” is not yet available online. You won’t find a bunch of former (current?) magicJack players publicly breaking their silence about their team’s wild year in WPS, but you will find more magicJack-related comments from both named and anonymous sources than we’ve seen in one place before. The story is reported and written very well.

In case you’ve missed it, here are a few highlights:

– More tales of Dan Borislow’s lavish spending on magicJack and then on the national team in London.

– A few more stories of Borislow’s behavior with the team, including rather personal questions about players’ sexuality. Borislow’s defenders would point out that the accounts are anonymously sourced.

– More accounts, both anonymous and directly quoted, suggesting Borislow takes a “my way or the highway” approach to many of his business and personal pursuits.

Those parts are mostly about Borislow the person. Like Hope Solo, he’s talented, driven and controversial. Whatever you think of him, you’d have to concede that he could write a lively memoir.

Then we get to the parts that are of greater interest as we roll forward with women’s soccer:

– The story depicts a large rift between the players in Borislow’s good graces (mostly, but not all, current national team players) and those who weren’t. An anonymous player says some teammates bragged about the big bucks they made for a couple of minutes of work on an ad campaign. Another anonymous source says original head coach Mike Lyons was fired within a few minutes of Abby Wambach complaining about him. Non-magicJack player Cat Whitehill, quoted by name, says she thinks Wambach and company likely didn’t want to see teammates mistreated but could’ve been more vocal about it. (Disclaimer: We don’t know what, if anything, the national team players said privately to Borislow about the issues.)

– Several top players are still on the magicJack payroll, and Borislow says he’s looking into some sort of team. No further description given.

– A telling direct quote from Borislow: “We should not have a pro league in this country unless they get paid real wages.”

That leads us to the as-yet-unnamed new league that was announced hours before the Olympic final. And this league has detractors beyond Borislow.

Not much has been said in public about this league. But several things said in private are worrisome. Or flat-out wrong.

Two things in the “wrong” category:

1. The new league will not be professional. It will be. The whole point is to get out of the W-League and WPSL restrictions (necessitated by the NCAA) on paying players and playing beyond late July. The new league’s backers intend to be professional. Moving to the new league would not be, as someone told me, a lateral move from the W-League.

2. U.S. Soccer is/was out of the loop. Nope. U.S. Soccer even knew the press release was going out at an unusual hour. (To be clear: It wasn’t U.S. Soccer’s decision to announce the league just then. But the federation was consulted, and it has been working with the new league’s backers.)

I’ve been told otherwise by people who have firm professional positions in women’s soccer. That leads to a question: Why? Why are they telling me something wrong? Is that what they heard? From whom?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be using a Genesis song for the headline here. Let’s try Led Zeppelin.

Communication breakdown … it’s always the same …

Published by

Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

55 thoughts on “New women’s soccer league: Must be some misunderstanding”

  1. Borislow was extremely critical of some of the other WPS teams – the Atlanta Beat in particular – for not paying their players better.

    Regardless, i can’t say I’d be enthusiastic about his involvement in a new league considering the mess he helped make of the last one.

  2. Beau

    One and a half years later,we have these supposed anynomous players being quoted with things never heard before.Most of these players were fired for having no heart and terrible work habits but wouldnt speak up to the league or Union about these things I might have said just now?I have been in business over 30 years,never a personal lawsuit or sexual discrimination during this time,employing more than 3,000 people.The night in question,MY 13 year old daughter was by my side with many parents of players there.This crap about Abby and Mike is so not true.It was something personal with Mike and I,and we are still friends to this day.The cards were stacked against us.The further crap about where we played is pathetic as well.Every game at home was played on natural grass,unlike many venues in the league and not only did we sell out over 5,000 seats at home numerous times,but our team sold out the away stadiums nore so than every other team combined.We handily beat every team in the league at least once.If every team was as succesful as magicJack,the league would still be around.

    I give Cat Whitehall credit for mentioning her name,but then I have to wonder how smart it was for her to comment on things she knows nothing about.The National team players were not involved,because I made sure they were not ,as they were doing something a little more important in Germany at the time.Like representing our country.If she wants to be vocal ,she should talk about players not getting paid unless they actually played.The largest mistake of the league while I was there,besides the people in charge,was having an amateur league play while the Pros were away in Germany.What a disaster and no other D1 league would ever consider it.That being said,we had some players that would be on 99 out of 100 National teams like Sarah and Tina and they would start.So maybe there was 10-15 worthy players amongst the six teams that you would call Pros.

    These reporters and most are so afraid to talk about what is really important.That the USSF are a bunch of idiots who abuse and discrimanate our NT women.These are the best athletes and the best team that represents the US.With all the Billions of dollars we spend,we can’t find a little money for these great Americans?They fire the best women’s Head Coach we ever had but keep around a Men’s coach who makes more money than the whole womens team combined and can’t beat Jamaica.Ya man.

    As far as the pay and benefits are concerned for the palyers,I was not comparing what other teams paid them,but what was fair to pay such great players and Americans.Pros.WE had some teams like NY who also tried to do the right thing.Besides what is morally right,as a business owner I could never pay them what we did.In my mind,I got the best bargain in my life,which tells me I should have probably paid them even more-so I did.

    On the subject of the future of a league,the USSF needs to contribute a few Million a year and make sure we draw the best players in the world to the best league in the World.If they contributed,then you could get rich owners who can essentially donate the rest of the money along with sponsors.There should only be 6 teams playing in 12 venues.The talent cannot be diluted.

    The writer from New York and you have been some of the few writers who want the women to suceed.It makes me sick how many things are working against these women.Why do I love Abby-because she is strong and smart and stands up for everybody besides being so courageous..Why do I respect Christie-because she is an unbeliavable wife and mother besides heart and determination with a brilliant soccer mind.Jill Loyden who is constantly fighting adversity.Hope Solo who takes on the World every morning she gets up.Becky who is always waiting patiently to contribute.Shanon with another great soccer mind,will play through her leg getting cut off and sacrificing everything she has.Sarah,Tina ,Dalmy,Lisa who just want to be soccer players at the highest level.Megan who is arguably the best soccer player who has ever played on any given day.Your right,I miss these players and more and they deserve much better than what this country,writers and the USSF give them.My family and friends will always be there for them.We have never had a better time in our collective lives than being associated with these great Americans.


  3. There’s no following Dan.

    My only thought is why announce a league and then go completely silent? One of the faults fans found with WPS was that they weren’t very willing to share information, let’s hope the “no-name” league isn’t following that path. I sincerely hope they are using this time to complete some concrete plans for a truly professional league that will become the best in the world.

    Until then, keep us posted.

  4. I’m not sure why Mr. Borislow is alleging USSF fired Pia Sundhage (if that is indeed who he is referencing) when she has gone on record saying that she wanted to return to Sweden of her own accord and had been considering it as the end of her contract approached.

  5. For those asking about the U.S. Soccer budget:


    – U.S. women get salaries because of paltry league pay; U.S. men do not, but they get appearance fees. So it’s not

    – Jurgen Klinsmann’s salary is huge.

    – U.S. Soccer is projecting a loss this year.

    – Pia Sundhage’s salary wasn’t outlandish. How much will they pay her successor?

    The Pia numbers:

  6. Dan seems to respect only his best players. Then the obvious large double standard for the rest of the team. It comes thru in comments from the team and from Dan in the article and again in Dan’s post above.

    Dan is entitled to his opinion on this, but I find the idea WPS with 6 teams was “watered down” and had many players who in Dan’s words weren’t true professionals and were not worthy. Again Dan’s bias bordering on outright dislike against most of his players comes thru.

    As a boy, I was REALLY good at baseball. Then as a teenager I kept getting taller until I hit 6’5 ( Not really good at all for baseball unless you are a pitcher) and I had trouble hitting good breaking pitches. So of course I never made it anywhere near a pro roster. There are so many American boys who play baseball. And with 32 MLB teams still the odds of any boy making there it are minuscule. I would think there are a similiar number of young girls who play soccer as young boys who play baseball. Many of these boys have no talent and go to other pursuits. Same with the girls and soccer. But the really good players get identified and take it more and more seriously as soccer or baseball can lead to a college scholarship.

    So with the massive amounts of girls playing youth soccer eventually producing candidates for 6 WPS teams ( compared to 32 at MLB) to say the WPS was “watered down” aside from a few top pros is ridiculous, wrong and insulting. You also had many of the top foreign pros taking up some of the roster spots like Kelly Smith and Lisa DeVanna. Dan I think you ought to change your attitude for your next team. Players can be mediocre or barely hanging on the a roster spot but still have plenty of heart ,drive and determination whether it be NFL, MLB, NBA or womens soccer.

  7. Pia wasn’t fired,she just wasn’t offered a contract before the Sweden position opened up.I couldn’t be happier for her in getting everybody’s dream job-coaching for your own country.She deserved better treatment than she recieved from these a..holes.Klinsmann gets paid over $3 Mil with bonus and Pia makes 8% of that-Really.Doesn’t sound like discrimination to me.A women who wins Two Golds for the country and respected by her players versus a coach who benches his Captain(I have never seen a coach bench a captain unless they did something really wrong).But it’s not his fault that the USSF doesn’t know how to take care of these multiple Champions who represeny our country better than any sports team in the last 20 years or more.They should rescind the non for profit status of the USSF for this discrimination.There is a reason Colleges and Universities give the same amount of money to Men and Women although the male Football and Basketball teams bring in all the money.The funny part here is,the women have been towing the load lately for US soccer and they need your help….Sorry for not mentioning Press,a super raw young talent who has the potential to be a star.

  8. I am as far from a Klinsmann fan as you can get but this discussion is ridiculous. Unfortunately Women’s Pro Soccer is a semi-pro proposition at best. How much was Abby Wambach paid in the 2 pro leagues she played in the US, how about Marta? compare that to Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, I think they would both love 8%….I cannot stand the MLS and would guess there are at least 20-25 leagues around the World that are superior, yet we have twice arguably had the top Women’s Pro League and both have failed miserably, while the MLS has managed to survive and has found a niche following. The only point I would agree with the former MagicJack owner is the league HAS to be subsidized by the USSF in much the same way as the WNBA is propped up by the NBA….

  9. They should have paid Pia a fairer salary corresponding with her achievements on the field. Some things need to change by federations that maybe “were always done that way in the past” but don’t really make any sense any more. Like Japan sending their male soccer team to the Olympics in business class and the world champion women in coach. That doesn’t make any sense once the light of day was shone on it. USSF needs a reminder who is winning and who isn’t

  10. I am a woman, a former collegiate player, and now die-hard supporter of women’s soccer but I fully admit that, at least so far, the women’s game does not produce the revenues that the men’s game does. It makes it hard to create the kind of culture that pays these superstars the wages that they “should” be making. So how do we change that? Why isn’t there an army of thousands of people like the American Outlaws for the men, or mega support groups like the MLS teams have (ex. Sons of Ben for Philadelphia Union)? Why don’t those same people who are rabid for the generally poor-performing men drive or fly all over the country and world to support the generally dominant women? I know that it took some time for the MLS culture to develop but America seems to already love our women’s national team. So it seems like they would support a league. I guess that has been proven wrong before, but why exactly is that?
    My thought: men’s games are not kid fests. Sure, there are young boys and girls who are there and who support their favorite stars but it’s not a screaming tween fest. Every time Wambach or Morgan or another big-name player touches the ball, a collective screech rises up from the stands. It’s hardly an environment conducive to hardcore sports fans, the ones who shell out time and money to support teams long-term. Unfortunately, much like the number of women who continue playing sports in college dwindles, the number who attend professional events and truly support professional teams plummets. Being a sports nut, it doesn’t make sense to me how you can fall out of love with soccer (or sports in general). Anyway, It’s great that our women are all about signing autographs for hours and doing lots of stuff for little girls who look up to them but why can’t there be a balance between creating a professional sports environment for matches and separate, more kid-focused community activities. I’ve brought it up before and always get poo-pooed about it but it really stands out as the most glaring difference between mens and womens games I’ve attended. Is that the only reason? Of course not, but it could definitely be part of the problem.

  11. The two things mentioned in the post are outright wrong.

    Granted, people could be filling a vacuum with dirt. Or something like that.

  12. Is there a point-person to ask? You’d think that someone would want to set the facts straight in order to establish some stability in the eyes of the public and the potential players, coaches, and staff. Or maybe they’re banking on players’ preference for staying close to home no matter the state of the league(s)?
    People do seem to like to fill the vacuum with dirt, much like the ESPN The Mag article which contained mostly old info with a dash of fresh dirt from London.

  13. I think Pia moving on is a good thing. There was nothing left for her to prove with this team & way too long a gap between the next meaningful tournament. A new coach will bring in new blood, which is important as Pia seemed hesitant to do so over the last couple of years. Now time should be spent on bridging the gap between the youth & senior team.
    As for the league, I agree with Mr. Borislow there should be a break in any league’s schedule during both the WWC & Olympics. However I do believe that with an even distribution of USWNT players & internationals, a league could sustain more than 6 teams. Also, there is a considerable amount of talent in the US beyond the 30 or so players in the national team pool. The problem with sustaining a league, on top of the lack of financial support from the USSF, is that the overwhelming majority of women’s soccer fans in the US are not soccer fans, but USWNT fans.
    As a soccer fan, who attended most of magicjack’s games at FAU, I can say that the marketing of the team & the league in general was brutal!!! Most people didn’t know the WPS existed till after the WWC & they did not effectively capitalize on the USWNT popularity after it. The on field product of the WPS was outstanding, because of the talents & efforts of the players, but they were failed by poor organization.

  14. Agree with Nicole, in that the atmosphere of WPS games was more like a Justin Bieber concert than a soccer match. It’s vital that any new league sells itself to the average sports fan & not this tiny niche market of screaming little girls.

  15. “So … no one cares about the misinformation being spread about the new league?”

    Misinformation? On the Internet, there is misinformation?

    Reminds me of Captain Louis Renault’s (Claude Rains) famous line in the film “Casablanca” about being shocked to learn that gambling was going on in Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart’s) Cafe.

    With regards to this new women’s professional soccer league, I would tend to disregard a press release issued just before/during the Olympics. Didn’t somebody in the USWNT similarly originally plan to release a book just before/during the Olympics insuring maximum publicity/media attention until dissuaded? Of much greater significance is $$$$$$$. A line from another film “Jerry Maguire” seems appropriate,”Show me the money.”

  16. Some of the WPS general managers were on twitter they were aware of that and wanted to sell tickets to other fan types but struggled to get interest. Two big problems the league had were expected and needed more corporate sponsorship than they got and needed to sell more tickets. These problems were never solved. They had limiged marketing budgets to work with. Magicjacks marketing was nonexistent which seemed odd since Dan realizes the need to advertise his phone service. MJ could have had a nice little stadium had seating been added.

    Players like Hope and Abby were popular before the world cup and could have been marketed to local fans to sell tickets but were not.

  17. @Beau: The “soccer summit” in late-June resulted in the announcement of a new semipro league. The announced professional league in August has as of now three of the clubs that were originally going to be in the aforementioned new semipro league (which won’t exist now). I think this change of plans might be one part of why people wrongly believe that this new league won’t be professional.

    As for the wrong belief that U.S. soccer is out of the loop, maybe they need to clap louder, or something along those lines.

  18. With regards to USSF $$$$ figures as revealed to the Washington Post…

    Comparing Pia’s salary to Jurgen Klinsmann’s is misleading. Pia was hired in 2008 when Bob Bradley was USMNT head coach. According to these articles, Bob Bradley’s base pay was only 25% of his successor’s. Pia was making more like 25-33% of Bradley’s base salary and more than the US U-20 men’s head coach was making. IMHO, not out of line for there to be that sort of salary difference.

    Bob Bradley had and has his detractors, but the one criticism I never read was that he wasn’t working for his pay. I hope he stays safe in Egypt.

    Why does the USSF feel the need to pay the current USMNT head coach so much money? Ask them that question. If this is the new standard, the next USWNT coach should be paid at lest what Bob Bradley was making before he was so abruptly ousted in favor of JK.

  19. “not out of line for there to be that sort of salary difference.”

    I agree that the comparison to Klinsmann is not the one that needs to be made and the Bradley figure should be the starting point, but I *heavily* disagree that this difference, whether between Sundhage and Bradley or Sundhage and Klinsmann is not out of line. The position is head coach of a national team. The difference is one is the women’s team and one is the men’s. Why is one paying, in the best case scenario, 33% of the other? If US Soccer wants to say it’s because men’s team appearances generate more revenue than women’s team appearances that’s fine, but that just means they’re not setting pay by results/accomplishments/previous coaching experience/other professional qualifiers.

    As for the wrong information, I’m…actually a little confused. These things were said by “people who have firm professional positions in women’s soccer” in private correct? That is the concern? I just need clarification.

  20. Borislow is a creep and a narcissist, and so-called “role models” like Wambach do women’s soccer a disservice by staying silent just to progress their careers and wallets.

  21. Anna – right. I can’t give names. But they’re not just random folks on Twitter. They’re people who are supposed to know what’s going on, and they’re telling me incorrect information. I don’t think they’re lying (at least in a couple of cases), but I think someone’s lying to them. Or everyone could just be confused and isn’t bothering to find out what’s correct.

  22. Ok, thanks for clearing that up. I don’t actually find that especially distressing in these early days with one vague announcement to go on. But then again that also indicates to me that the people working on the new league are not on top of the behind-the-scenes work and either made their press release way too soon or are flailing and the next press release is about how they shouldn’t have made a press release because there won’t be a league in 2013.

    So maybe I should reach for the inhaler after all…

  23. Wow I don’t know what to make of all this. I respect Dan for responding, but its also a bit uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone respond to a controversial article written about them before. 😀 I will say one thing about Dan he’s passionate about paying women soccer players & that’s a good thing. I also love that he’s pointing out the wage disparity between the head coaches of the national teams.

    I think I share his same love and passion for the USWNT. I’m desperate for them to have a new league. I was honored to watch them play several matches during the Olympics including the final at Wembley. After watching this summer Olympics it struck me how the USA does a great job of nurturing and producing great female athletes but we have done a horrible job of nurturing and supporting professional women’s leagues in all sports. There is simply no place for our female athletes to go after college & the Olympics. The WNBA is the best women’s league we have produced so far and that league still has its problems. The season is still too short & as a result many players are forced to play overseas to support themselves.

    I live in the UK, but travel back and forth to the States. I follow the women’s game in Europe and I’m familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. I’m from South Florida and would love another women’s team in the area, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The main advantage in Europe is the support from the men’s clubs. The US women are simply not getting that same support from the MLS men’s clubs, as they do in Europe or the WNBA. There is also name recognition for women’s teams being associated with the men’s clubs. For example I’m a supporter of Arsenal Ladies. Anyone with even a passing interest in the sport knows the name Arsenal.

    Europe’s second advantage is a soccer infrastructure. Europe has so many soccer stadiums of different shapes and sizes. Not every team in every division is expected to sell out a stadium the size of Wembley. Its only the very top teams in Europe that are expected to have crowds of 60,000 or more. On average many stadiums or grounds are designed to hold a few thousands to 20,000 fans. As a result the European women clubs are not under the same kind of pressure to sell out large stadiums which doomed the WUSA.

    Thirdly, the European women’s clubs are starting to attract billionaires and rich oil producing countries investing in their clubs. No offence to the magicJack but its a small company compared to the corporate giants who sponsor or advertise in the NBA, NFL, MLB etc.

    Lastly, European nations also have a geographical advantage over the States. They are much smaller. The travel costs are a lot less.

    In order for a new women’s league to survive in the States, we need more wealthy people or corporate sponsors. Governments should also be enlisted to help build more soccer specific stadiums for about 10,000-20,000 fans. Its been done for men’s teams & leagues for decades. Those stadiums most be comfortable, supported by public transport or have enough parking.

    The new league should concentrate on creating a stable fan base in one region of the US to minimize travel costs. Once the league is stable they can branch out to expansion teams in different parts of the country. Lastly, the stable clubs from the MLS should also sponsor a women’s team. IMO any new league can & should support more than 6 teams. 8-12 teams would provide for a competitive league.

    I realize that most of the above is a pipe dream until Americans start demanding parity for our professional women athletes. The fans have to be the advocates for the players we love because they can’t do it on their own. Demand support over social media, demand it in corporate board meetings & demand it by attending government budget meetings etc.

    I don’t know if Dan will read this, but it doesn’t hurt to throw my observations out to the universe. Dan if you do get a chance to read this and plan on sponsoring another women’s team please don’t call the club after your company. Every team needs to share the identity of its local community. People of that community should feel connected to it and its hard to feel connected to a product. Please just put the name of your company on the kits, ads or stadium name like they do in Europe.

    I don’t know if the accusations against Dan are true or not. I don’t know if I care. I think all sides can learn from any mistakes that were made in order to make the new league stable. The he said, she said articles doesn’t help with that goal IMO.

    Again I respect Dan for his passion, and quite frankly he’s dead right about paying the players, but I can also see how passion might have clouded his judgement on occasion. For example, taking over as head coach of the magicJack. That one act alone created the the perception of Dan as a stereotypical micro-managing owner who lives vicariously through his players. Whether anything else in that article is true or not Dan is battling that perception.

    Dan can do something about that perception by hiring a strong management team, so he can stay out of the day to day of operations of any team in the future. I hope he gets the chance to do just that. Perhaps that should be his pitch to TPTB in the new league.

    Sorry for the long post. I hope that Dan does not take offence to my constructive criticism. I believe he’s on the side of women soccer players, and I respect his continued involvement & advocacy for the sport.

  24. She was probably one of the best-paid women’s national team coaches out there. But the point was that her salary was low as compared to the men’s coaches salaries. Just because it is standard practice to systematically pay women’s coaches less doesn’t make it right, so comparing her to other *women’s* coaches makes no difference in this example. Paying both women’s and men’s coaches similarly signals that the federation esteems both teams the same and that both positions have similar prestige.

  25. Beau – As far as generating discussion about the new league, I think you dug your own grave by burying that question in a post about the sensational saga of Magicjack, which is always sure to hijack this type of discussion.

    Dan is/was the league’s most aggressive critic. I can hypothesize that he wouldn’t have liked the WPS organization from the start, but I agree that by the time he joined the league (Dec. 2010 and onward), it was in pathetic shape. (Note that I am putting aside the separate and endless debate of what role Dan himself played in degrading the league). He is right that it was rudderless & adrift throughout the time he was involved and perhaps this is one reason (in addition to his financial largesse) that such a controversial owner managed to earn a few allies among his star players, much to the chagrin of many their fans.

    WPS promised to unleash the marketing power of its own fan base by embracing cutting edge new media technology. The founders envisioned thousands of young women and men blogging, commenting, posting video and other original content and engaging in citizen journalism to promote the league. But you know what? The fans didn’t want that role. There were only a handful of fans – perhaps a hundred passionate diehards in North America – who wanted to play that role in the relationship.

    For the past three years, I can go on any comment thread about WPS on the internet (including this one), the BigSoccer boards, or the old weekly #wpschat on Twitter and know that I will see pretty much the same 50 people: Diane, Hula, Ingrid, a couple of Riptide guys, Jeff K., Jenna Pel, Gerry Marrone, William Tammick and Beau and a few others. The base really never grew or developed even in early/mid-2010 when the league was at its peak in terms of resources, franchises, season ticket holders and managerial competence.

    As that strategy failed to ignite, the league cut budget, laying off people like Amanda Vandevort (digital media chief, now with MLS) and becoming less-and-less competent in digital marketing and grassroots outreach to fans. The downward spiral. The small group of passionate fans that DID engage with the league’s grassroots strategy became vocal detractors, demanding more and better marketing (more webcasts, better utilization of players, more transparency and timely information, etc.) even as the league became less and less able to satisfy these demands with each passing month.

    These days the knock on WPS is that it was poorly marketed. Fair. But I think the league also bet on the existence and participation of a much more passionate fan base than ever actually existed. At the beginning, WPS really did offer some compelling tools, access and communication to fans who wanted to get out and engage and promote the league.

    Want proof? Look at a guy like Jeff Kassouf, who started out as a kid barely out of his teens with no journalism experience. Not to take any credit away from Jeff himself, but his success is partly a product of WPS’ marketing strategy. He embraced the league and used the accessibility of WPS officials and players to build his EqualizerSoccer blog into a destination site and earn an online column with Sports Illustrated in a span of less than two years. Anyone could have done that! That was the beauty of WPS in the early days. But only Jenna Pel and Jeff really took the ball and ran with it in an interesting way that helped build the game and the league. Most fans, to the extent they engage with WPS at all in the digital space, just used Twitter to ask Natasha Kai to wish them a happy birthday.

    I think WPS’ marketing and communication efforts will start to get a more positive historical re-evaluation (meaning from that small cadre of 50 or so fans who care) when and if this new league gets off the ground. WPS early on did a lot of little things right at the communications/marketing level that fans never really perceive. Forging a great relationship with USA Today. Selectively leaking key stories to Steven Goff’s influential and well-trafficked Washington Post column. Using a strategic calendar to time major announcements for maximal coverage. These things are neither sexy nor flashy, but they are important. And they seem beyond the grasp of the new league, largely because it doesn’t seem to have any central management. Right now, it just seems to be a loose confederation of like-minded clubs, which makes it only as strong as its weakest links.

    If WPS is like Obama – disappointing many in the grass roots movement it promised to galvanize – then this new league so far is like Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. Invisible, disorganized, unknown. Hopefully that will not only change, but it will change in time to launch a 2013 season with real sales and marketing traction. But the clock is ticking. They should be much further along by now.

  26. In response to Footie,nobody in there right mind(a great coach) would coach our team with the various burdens and problems the league put on us.Since Abby was already a player,she volunteered to coach and I accepted.We ended up getting a great coach with Abby.The other thing Abby volunteered from day one,is to give back 100% of her salary as a player so the other women could get paid more and the league survice.On that occasion,I did not accept.Christie and Shan also offered to take less money without any prompting from me.These young ladies all wanted a league for all the players and offered their own money for the lessor players.These are the type of people we are talking about.

    The thing most people on this thread are not getting-there are a few-is that there should not be any disparity between what coaches and players get paid.None,zero.This is a non for profit organization where equality is a must.It has nothing to do with who brings the money in.For instance,I would say the women bring in Billions of Dollars of goodwill for the Country.This is America’s team.

    Stay focused on what matters.I could only be one of many to contribute financial resources.As far as a league is concerned ,it has to have all the best players in the world or it will not be successful.I saw firsthand what the fans wanted.but the most important thing anybody should be getting when it comes to womens soccer,is it will not be successful till the WNT is treated equally as well as the Men and then you might get young players aspire to be Professionals.When millions of kids and their parents have this desire,that will be the start of something successful.This means you have to pay the women and treat them like Pros to start.If the Women were getting paid $300k a year to be on the National team,you would see a whole lot of interest and build real Pros.There is just nothing to aspire to right now.The women I mention time and time again have a dream and that is why they sacrifice and put up with this abuse from the USSF and reporters and many other nay sayers,the dream is to have a pro league and be treated equally.

    Please focus on making these American Champions equals to help promote the sport we love and what is best for our Country.

  27. Dan – I appreciate what you’re saying but, as I’m quite certain you’re well aware, money talks. I’m all for equal pay but to help that out we need equal support. How do we get paying customers in the seats? How do we get more people to give a flip about soccer in the non-Olympic/WC seasons? Obviously those of us here do. We, like the players who sacrifice simply to accomplish their dreams and grow the game despite the lack of financial allure, are not the ones who need to be sold on the idea. It was a problem that MLS had for many years and just chipped away at it until they stabilized. It’s a problem that women’s sports face around the world but seems more stark in this country that idolizes our amazing women’s team at the big tourneys. How do we generate the money needed to pay the players more than just a living wage and sustain a league that the best in the world know they have to play in to keep up with the competition and to be most successful financially?

  28. On Dan’s comment: “Women were getting paid $300k a year to be on the National team,you would see a whole lot of interest and build real Pros.” Its funny he puts it this way, I was involved in a long discussion about pro sports a few weeks ago and one of the arguments is that many “fans” go to see players just because they make an insane amount of money. They want to know what a 100mm player is or just to be able to say they went and saw them play whether they like the sport or the player is unimportant. So while he didn’t put it in so many words I feel like that might be what he is getting at.

    As far as salaries its all market comparisons. Unfortunately everyone is right here, women coaches and players get paid less because that is what the market is paying them. If you wanted to get the best coach or player you could pay them above market, but even then its significantly less than the male comparisons. I actually appreciate that Dan looks at paying the players and coaches as what they deserve so to speak than what someone making a business out of the venture would be interested in paying them. For that to come from someone who is a business owner conveys how passionate he is about the topic. Unfortunately I don’t believe we have enough business owners out there willing to spend that kind of money on a passion project that would not turn any kind of profit for the foreseeable future.

  29. Nicole
    I am 50 years old and lived through a disgusting period of America where people died for their protection of their civil right.I have also seen equality amongst the sexes in athletic scholarships.Nothing happens overnight and nothing ever gets to be perfect,but things get to be much better.You at least have to start some where.With the WNT,equality has never even started.Make these women equal, give them the same benefits and like I said,that will be the start of a succesful Women’s league.I will always refuse to be part of the problem and that is why I did not fit in the WPS.Certain things in business and life need complete overhauls,the WPS was one of these and the USSF is another one.The root cause of the problem is the USSF,but many people in the soccer community are afraid to take them on particularly the reporters,agents,players and people trying to make a living off soccer.

    So like previous problems the country has faced,the formerly mistreated need to be given a crutch in the beginning and long term need equal treatment.Pay the women $200k a year(this total for all the players combined is almost the same one employee of the USSF already makes)and you will see the start of something great.Look how much better the men have gotten over the last 20 years in profesional soccer after they started being paid for real.For real for the women is only $200k a year,so it is quiet the bargain.They are the best at what they do in the world.what was the value of 50 million americans having something to be proud of and put in a happy mood for a long period of time?Showing the world how strong our women are instead of the the way many countries treat their women.Of teaching girls how they can suceed at anything and giving them self confidance and self esteem.Of anybody achieving their dream.The list is endless and that is how it adds up to Billions of dollars of goodwill.You cannot break this down to dollars and cents the way the people in charge of the USSF wants to do,simply because these morons don’t understand the goodwill and what soccer is all a

  30. Dan –

    I agree with everything you’re saying but how do we generate the money to make that happen? I’m a worker bee, not a businesswoman, but I know there has to be a plan and money. Does it have to start out of the good will of people with loads of money to do the right thing with the risk of no financial return?
    I don’t know enough about USSF to know their role. I do know that others have brought up that it’s time for a new contract and that it’s up to our women to demand more if they want to get it. That makes sense to me. Are the women willing to fight tooth and nail for what they have demonstrated time and time again that they deserve?
    At any rate, that’s just about the national team. In order to sustain (re-establish?) the national team dominance, we need a truly elite league to be a major talent pool with regular, high-level competition. So, back to the original question: how does that happen?

  31. Dan, appreciate your taking the time to engage here. I doubt any women’s soccer fans would argue with your position on better pay for the US women’s team oe players in a pro league. I’m assuming you mean ALL the players in a league- at least six teams’ worth per your earlier post, not just the WNT players? I’m curious about two things:
    1) what you think the overhaul of USSF would look like. According to their financial reports, they’re operating at a multi-million dollar deficit right now. Do you want them to go farther in debt, or do you assume by going big with the women they’d attract more lucrative sponsorships to cover the gap?

    2) If I understood correctly, you also think USSF should invest significantly in the women’s league, and that providing a “subsidy” will attract other investors such as yourself, ie ones who will absorb sizable losses until some unknown point when the league stabilizes. Is that right? Do you really think there are enough deep pockets out there?

  32. Interesting points by Andy. At least from what I can tell on-line the dedicated fan base has grown since the World Cup and Olympics. Its a shame the WPS started to go under before the World Cup peaked interest again. The fan marketing idea could come in handy now if there was a league to promote, but who knows how long interest will last in non World Cup/Olympic years as nicole pointed out?

    I was never one of those hardcore USWNT junkies mentioned. LOL. I watched USWNT play in previous World Cups & Olympics, but something changed for me in 2011. I go to women’s soccer matches in England regularly now. The epic win against Brazil, followed by an epic win against Canada the following year has propelled the USWNT into the consciousness of Americans that not even the 99ers achieved IMO. That “something” seems to have propelled the women’s game in Japan after the World Cup. Also Canada and GB team since the Olympics. I guess time will tell.

    Thanks for your response Dan. I wasn’t dealing with the WPS and I wasn’t in the locker room so I can only defer to your experience. I sincerely hope the powers that be can really create a sustainable league. I will do what I can to promote it from Europe and attend games in person when I am back in the States.

    Another marketing idea that I’m throwing out to the universe. The NFL has now made streaming games to Americans overseas for a nice fee of course. I hope the new league won’t discount fans from overseas. Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Meagan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach are superstars. Europeans would kill to have them come play in their domestic leagues.

  33. Forbe’s on-line published a short piece on Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT salary some six months ago.

    Forbe’s is a financial magazine/portal, not a sports portal, but they have published some interesting things on sports, mostly having to do with player salaries, sports franchise values, and the like.

    I am not posting the link on this comments board but it can be found by googling “Forbes Jurgen Klinsmann salary” in the “all these words” box. It pops up right at the top with the title: “U.S. Soccer Team Ranked Fourth In The World”.

    The title refers to the ranking of the salary of the USMNT Head coach compared to the salaries of other FIFA National Team Head Coaches. Only Switzerland, Spain, and Germany pay their (men’s) soccer head coaches more than the USSF pays Klinsmann.
    The other 205 national associations pay their National team head coach less, most probably a LOT less (and I suspect most get paid even less that what Pia Sundhage was making as USWNT head coach).

    Of greater interest is the fact that Klinsmann’s salary on a list of ALL association football team head coaches/managers for ALL teams whether “National team”, football club, or franchise would be the 28th highest in the world according to Forbes.

    Why is the USSF paying JK so much? You need to ask them because I don’t know.

    There are reprecussions, long term reprecussions. Such as the compensation of other coaches in the USSF. Or the compensation of future head coaches.

    Should the USSF pay a USWNT head coach as much as they are now paying Klinsmann on the basis some supposition of equality? What if the USSF hires a man as the next USWNT head coach? Should he be paid as much as JK because he is the head coach of a national team?

    More likely the next USWNT head coach will be paid MUCH less that JK. What will that be telling people?

    The USSF created a real mess for themselves.

  34. @Joshua – JK played the USSF like a fiddle kept them interested for years until they were so desperate to get him they paid him an insane amount. And you are right to question the long term repercussions. It would be interesting to see if there is similar list out there for women’s coaches I bet Pia was near the top in that category too.

    The women (players) have done a good job so far negotiating for themselves and I bet this years will bring better things for them, the biggest obstacle for them is how many years go by between negotiations. I would like to see a league get established that pays real wages in order for the WNT to become like the MNT and get paid for getting called in not a salary. Why? Because only then do I think that the talent pool will become deeper. With so many players on salary right now, (I believe it is 20, but could be wrong), it doesn’t leave much room for other players to be tested out in games or to get experience to create a deeper pool. The USSF and the coach are very committed to those 20 players because they are paying them an annual salary (from a business perspective that makes sense). Barring injury or other commitments there is no way an established player gets left out for poor performance and I would love to see it become more like the men’s game in that you get called in if you are playing well and left out if you aren’t. However that can’t happen unless there is a league where these players get appropriate pay and benefits (not to mention games!) to allow this to happen. A deeper pool also leads to more fans for a league IMHO because there would be more players in the pool getting more exposure leading to a bigger fan base for those players. I read somewhere (wish I could remember where) that the problem with the league is that only a handful of the individual players have actual fan pulling powers other than that the fans want to see the USWNT, the team itself. My thought/hope is that a deeper pool with more players gaining game experience would lead to higher fan interest in individual players and hence a league. That just may be wishful thinking though, it could backfire and have the opposite effect.

  35. (Note: I could be completely wrong about this part. If I am, please say so.) Klinsmann’s salary is as large as it is mainly because the USSF did an awful job in negotiations. It was clear that the USSF desperately wanted him as Bradley’s replacement, putting themselves in a bad position to start off. Klinsmann successfully played coy about wanting the job, and since the USSF did not have a good backup plan, he was able to negotiate a large salary for himself. His salary is an outlier and should be treated as such.

    According to Borislow’s good friend Fitz Johnson, the WPS teams lost around 29 to 31 million dollars in their first two years, depending on how the 2010 Athletica were counted ( h/t Noah Davis). These losses would have amounted to just over a quarter of the USSF’s expenditures over the same time period. There was no way for the USSF to underwrite those losses, and even a small subsidy could have been seen by them as throwing good money after bad while simultaneously hurting their own programs for women’s soccer.

  36. Joshua

    I like your focus and facts.To a large degree that is also what I was trying to say,you might have said it a lot better.Once they moved the salary,they needed to do it across the board for all players and coaches.No more discrimination.The players counsel should have sued the USSF ages ago and any other advice he is giving the players is lame.The USSF already did everything the players needed them to do when they bought up the pay scale and now they must make sure they clean up this discrimination once and for all.This is such a typical approach bad business people take.Pay the unproductive ones to do better and neglect the people who count most.It’s a prescription to kill a business.

    Why isn’t the USSF taking rich people,politicians,sponsors,grass root organizations who want to help and have matching contributions instead of sitting on their ass collecting huge salaries making it miserable for everybody in soccer.Women they have failed.Men they have failed.Our kids they are failing.One MLS player in the game against Jamacia I read.The only reason these people have jobs is because the women and all they want to do is make the men succesful at any cost.They will take the best we have and alienate them and have nothing left.

    If you want a league that lasts in the US,you must first start with our National Team.League talk is premature and no amount of wealthy people can make it a success.It must start with what that 4 year old kid is thinking and grow from there.Very few elite players are thinking to themselves,I will give up being a doctor,a mother a this or that because I am going to be a Profesional soccer player.It filters all the way down and you only have half the amount of kids who end up being in sport.

    You want a strong Nation,you need strong people and Nerds.You want strong people,they must play sports.You want nerds,you need to entertain them with people who play sports.Women are not excluded from the equation and I would argue much the opposite.Strong women are where it’s at.

  37. So, do you think that the league needs to be put on the back burner until the WNT situation is improved? I don’t recall when their contract is due for re-negotiation but I feel like it’s some time this year. It so, is that enough time to get things together for a league next year with a solid foundation, not just scrambling to keep our players here? Sincy has already said she will be going overseas next year. How long should our women hold out hope for staying home before making their plans to play elsewhere?

    1. I believe the National team players should remain in residency and play 10 games or so across the country against the best National and International Club teams next year.It is the only way to keep the level of interest high for fans until we grow a larger base of qualified Pros trying to make our high paying National team.magicJack had 5 or 6 National team starters and drew all the fans without any advertising in it’s home market and sold out our last 3 or 4 games.I went to Boston and other cities,and all the fans were screaming for Abby,Hope,Christie and Meg.That tells me everything I need to know.Marta was a fan favorite down in South Florida too.We need a larger pool of excellent players to make this work.It will not happen overnight.The system is broken and needs desperate repair,but the good news is,for now the NT is a huge draw and that is a great starting point till things get fixed.I wish it were different and there was a “magical answer” but…That being said,magicJack would be the first to sign up to contribute and sponsor a residency program with an expanded roster of 30 players.

  38. This is SO bizarre. Just bizarre. Someone who claims to be all about “great Americans” and the “American way” who doesn’t understand that women’s sports operates in the same free market that helped make America great in the first place. “It doesn’t matter who brings in the money?” WTF? I can imagine that when you are a shrewd businessman (kudos) and make and have lots of money, you can be cavalier about it, but it IS about who brings in the money. Or are you saying you favor welfare for one group that can’t compete economically? Does that sound like good old American capitalism to you?


  39. Also, just for the record, the highest attendance reported for a magicJack game at home was 4,011 against WNY on 8/10/2011. Others were 3,064, 3,063, 2,386, 1,727, 1,224, 1,008, 952 and 864 (then 2,075 for a playoff game). That’s not selling out a 5,000 seat stadium “multiple times.”

    magicJack’s average road attendance WAS the highest in the league (5,768), ahead of WNY’s 4,121, thanks to the Abby Returns Game at WNY and a sellout at Atlanta.

  40. @ KT – We probably should have let the American auto industry die too, huh? Screw them, Capitalism!, ‘Merica!

  41. So here’s a question — how well will the national team draw when it starts breaking in new players, looking ahead to 2015 and 2016? When Alyssa Naeher or Bianca Henninger is starting instead of Hope Solo? When Crystal Dunn is at the back? When Lindsey Horan is playing attacking mid with an unknown defensive mid instead of a central mid pairing of Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd?

    The momentum of the Women’s World Cup died quickly. We’ve seen it before — the families show up, get Abby’s autograph, and that’s it. The post-Olympic Victory Tour can’t last forever.

    And if the USA wants to win in 2015 and 2016, players will need to be given opportunities to displace the current group. Maybe not Wambach, who can probably gear up for another four years. Rampone is already defying her age. Does anyone see Boxx starting in 3-4 years, when she is already struggling to go 90 through age and various injuries? And is Solo a sure-fire starter, given the young talents on the way up and her injury history?

    At some point, women’s soccer had to be built on something other than the Mia Hamm/Brandi Chastain cult of personality. Without the WUSA, we probably wouldn’t have had Wambach and Boxx.

    So what’s next?

  42. That’s the tale of any sport. You have to establish loyalty to the game and team, not just the stars. You have to be able to get them to spend their time and disposable income on your team. You have to be able to get them excited about any chance to see them. Everyone is a nobody before they’re a star. And all stars eventually burn out and are replaced by others. It’s the loyal fans that are the constant and we need to find a way to get women’s soccer in their consciousness more often than every world cup and Olympics.

  43. Aside from the allegations and denials, what Mr Borislow is doing, even now, keeping Wambach, Hope Solo and the others under contract and keeping them in his clutches shows how damaging the man is to the sport of women’s soccer. It’s sickening to even contemplate that these players could be subsidized by him to not play in the new league or one of the top leagues in Europe (say) just so they could remain “his” – his players, his playthings. What good is a collection of these stars if they’re not part of a competitive league? This isn’t stamp collecting and, if the idea is a Harlem Globetrotters thing, this is a sport, not a traveling circus.

    I understand that Mr Borislow is a fan, not only of the sport but of some of these particular women. I am, too. But something is clouding his judgment and making him overly possessive about it and it is not good for the sport he professes to love. Look, when Phil Anschutz and Lamar Hunt helped create MLS (and then carried them through the lean years), they didn’t just buy the star players (which they had the money to do, Anschutz at least) and been content to see other teams fighting over the scraps. They saw that wasn’t how you build a league and how you build a sport.

  44. Beau – 10 years ago everyone was asking “how will we ever replace Mia, Bri, Brandy, and Julie?” The answer is the same now. The new players need to do something dazzling in front of a international audience of 40+ million watching.

    Alex Morgan is so young, and she’s worth the price of admission in any game, pro, national team, W-League. She’s a bridge that Pia didn’t respect soon enough, and has won over millions with her skill and athleticism. There is a HUGE crop of new talent coming up through the youth teams right now that will impress in the same way.

    Those youth need to be in a system that grooms them to be pros, with a pro league functioning in as many major markets as possible, so the kids can attend games, watch on TV and online, read about their idols, and dream of emulating their skills.

    They don’t need $200K a year as a draw to want to be a pro soccer player. Anyone who knows how girls think about sports participation, knows the game itself and the relationships therein is their draw. They are driven to be the best they can be, and determined not to let their teammates down. They don’t dream of playing pro soccer for the money, they dream of a life experience that enables their desire to do something great. If the money is at least there for them to live, with a really nice bonus for the special few who make it to the USWNT, that would be enough to build this thing for the next two decades it will take to get a real league on it’s own two feet and part of the American sports culture.

    It will be great for them to make a ton of money one day, but paying a dozen elite players $200K a year in the short term while the rest get nothing will not solve the problem as Dan B believes. Great soccer and great soccer players will fill stadiums when they win and do things worth the price of admission.

    Our time and money should be spent first ensuring every year that the new crop of players graduating their youth clubs are better than the last, and ensuring that we have a sustainable pro league in as many cities as possible for them to come into after college (and during on the reserve teams).

    If we don’t, the USA will never win another World Cup or Gold Medal, and Dan’s whole business “plan” for the success for the game goes out the window.

    Dan, I think you’re an idiot when it comes to global and American soccer economics and politics. Your valuable no-nonsense business advice is perpetually betrayed by your ignorance to the real history and facts related to the game at every level and what makes the stakeholders in the game tick. Combine this with an apparent inability to keep track of all your own versions of events and opinions stated as “facts”, and you should not be surprised to always be on the receiving end of mistrust. I’m sure you see a lot of jealousy too, and have learned to try and block that out, but in doing so you clearly block out too many good people who want to do the right thing for the women’s game too.

    I hate to say it on a human level, but your presence is part of the problem, not the solution.

    To put it in coaching terms to a wannabe pro player with all the passion and dreams still misleading them every day… “Son, you’re not good enough. You’re never going to make it in this game, so I recommend you find another line of work. I’m sorry you have to hear this, but it’s better to be honest with you than string you along when you could be channeling your value into areas where you really can do some good.”

    Dan, Unless you’re willing to buy the whole system, please find a way to just be a fan. We’ll take your sponsor money if you like, but it won’t buy you access to the team. Just leave it in a bundle on the front porch with a copy of your logo and basic instructions for delivery and care.

    If you REALLY wanted to fix women’s soccer. And everyone else was REALLY that wrong about it. Then quick screwing around on a chat board. Stroke a check for $50 million, form a corporation, hire the good leaders, and get a 12-team league off the ground with $1 Million in subsidies each for 5 years. And award the winning team $1 Million per year. An annual MagicJack Cup open to all women’s teams in the country with a $1 Million prize pool to the top four and travel costs covered for the quarterfinals and higher rounds would also have a great trickle down effect and see a lot of elite youth leagues field summer Amateur teams, which would in turn naturally support the youth development efforts we need to create more Alex Morgans.

    Do something like this now, or please just go away, because your actual opinions on the game, and what makes great teams are misguided at best, and destructive all around. Great teams are not made of the 11 best players, and only great teams win championships. As talented as they are, the wider world only knows who Abby and Hope are because they were on winning teams. It doesn’t work the other way around. Your “100% pay the best players more” is fundamentally flawed on far too many levels to get into here.

  45. Borislow’s comments clearly demonstrate his lack of knowledge in what development environment is required to build the strongest program possible. While the US is #1 in the world right now, it’s clear to everyone the gap has closed considerably. The women’s leagues in countries like France & Japan, which are semi-professional, are clearly helping with the development of some of the best players in the world. Increasing the wages for players in a US domestic league is not the solution. Obviously these women need to be paid a fair, living wage, but it has to be realistic to the market that exists.
    Borislow is a glorified groupie, who has managed to buy the loyalty of a select group of players. They tolerate his antics because he signs their checks. While that makes me question their character & professional integrity, who am I to judge really? They are incredible athletes, who deserve to be paid well for their talents, especially when considering the shelf life of their careers. Essentially they’re cashing in while they can. I agree with Dontcallmesunil…..Dan keep signing the checks that will help fund a sustainable pro league in North America, just do it at arm’s length (preferably even farther!).

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