Three short-lived seasons of The Women’s United Soccer Association, which folded in 2003, left American fans distraught, but Women’s soccer is trying again.
The Women’s Professional Soccer league debuted in April with seven teams, no television deals, and a substantially smaller budget. Some are dubious that it will ever make real money, writing it off the rookie league as an exercise in fiscal conservatism.
Prospective fans, who probably care little about the league as a cash cow for corporate sponsors, will be happy to hear that single tickets begin at a recession-friendly $13.
Men’s soccer has never achieved the astronomical popularity in this country that it has abroad, perhaps because it challenges the prodigiousness of American football. Women’s soccer tends to find a following in young women who competitively play the sport and their number one fans, their families. Some involved say this is not enough.
The Boston Breakers team business director, Andy Crossley, puts it bluntly in The New York Times:
We need to get out of the ghetto of being a role model for girls. You can’t make dads feel like they’re visiting Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Athlete role models are not part of any ghetto. There should be more of them if anything, no matter the sex. And there’s nothing “Chuck E. Cheese” about it women’s soccer, which arguably moves faster than men’s and is a physical, exciting, and high-intensity sport. Young women could do worse than play soccer, or at least attend a soccer match.
One premiere player, hailing from UNC Chapel Hill (where she racked up two NCAA championships) via Montclair New Jersey would be hard-pressed to flee the role model business. She’s been waiting for an opportunity like this her whole life. Yael Averbuch, whose parents include a marathon runner and a sports book author, has been sharing her desire to play professional soccer with the likes of journalists since she was just a teen. Her mother, Gloria Averbuch even gave Yael and her sister, Shira, Hebrew names which undoubtedly stand out in a line-up. It was reported that Yael avoided a Bat Mitzvah, which would have interfered with her rigorous training.
Here she is below, executing the speediest goal ever scored in NCAA history:
Averbuch grew up asking for autographs from women players she admired, and now she signs paraphernalia for young hopefuls herself.
No one knows if women’s professional soccer will succeed or fail, but fortunately team sports tend to ingrain in players that giving up is never an option.