Article updated 21 December 2012 (since the world didn’t end) with the latest information.
Professional soccer has returned to the nation’s capital for the third time, this time under a new name and organization, the Washington Spirit. Well, actually, the organization isn’t all that new as it’s the same one that’s been behind the DC United Women, the very successful W-League team that was named the league’s Rookie Club of the Year in 2011 and this year finished third in the entire league.
There are a lot of questions to be asked about the club, and, not surprisingly at this stage, more questions than answers.
Who’s running the show?
As previously summarized, it’s the same people as were behind the DC United Women (which, despite the name, were independent of the MLS team): owner Bill Lynch, general manager Chris Hummer, head coach Mike Jorden, and assistant coach Cindi Harkes, along with most of the supporting cast that made the Soccerplex such a congenial place this past summer.
Where can I find them on the Internet?
Where will they play?
Again, the same location as the DC United Women and the WPS Washington Freedom: on the stadium field at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, MD.
How many games will they play?
Word is that there will be 22 games, 11 at home. With eight teams in the league, this presumably means three games against each of the other teams plus an extra game against the closest rival, which for the Spirit would be (Jersey) Sky Blue.
Can I buy tickets now?
Yes, and if you buy before the end of the year, you get an early-bird discount. See their website for information.
Why “Spirit” and not “Freedom”?
Here it gets a little ambiguous. GM Hummer said yesterday, “We just really wanted to have a new name and a fresh start and not deal with the past” (a slightly confounding statement to those of us who remember the WUSA’s San Diego Spirit, one of the Freedom’s rivals back in the day). However, in a brief event November 28, he strongly implied that they tried to get the “Freedom” name but were blocked from doing so. Meanwhile, Dan Borislow, who owns the name, claims that he was never contacted.
If the name “Spirit” was selected as the result of a highly touted fan contest that ended December 3, then why was the domain name “WashingtonSpirit.com” bought by Lynch on November 23?
(See http://whois.domaintools.com/washingtonspirit.com ). Okay, this is just me being an obnoxious investigative reporter for a moment. I can well imagine that someone who’s investing big bucks in a sports team would be willing to plunk down a few to reserve a likely name.
Now that we have a team name, do we have a league name?
Maybe. Reports are that it’s going to be called the Women’s Professional Soccer Association, but that’s not official yet.
It’s the National Women’s Soccer League, online at http://www.nwslsoccer.com (currently forwards you to their Facebook page) and @NWSL .
Does the team have sponsors? Who are they?
Yes, but there’s been no statement as to who they are. While there’s no jersey (“presenting”) sponsor yet, Hummer reported that they have “multiple six-figure sponsors” – as others have noted, probably the single most important news out of yesterday’s media call.
Who’s going to play for the Spirit?
Now that’s the $64,000 question. We know from the league announcement that US Soccer will fund 24 players from the national team pool, while the Canadian and Mexican equivalents will fund
around 16 and 12, respectively each. The WNTers are to be allocated in a manner similar to how it was done for both the WUSA and WPS, asking players and teams their preferences and then trying to match them up in a way that makes everyone happy.
Anyhow, the Spirit should get three USWNTers, two Canadian NTers, and
one or two Mexican NTers. But the identity of any of those is yet to be determined.
What about players who aren’t national teamers?
Good question! No answers. There are numerous possibilities: one draft for all players; two drafts, one for college players and one for those who’ve graduated; or a free-for-all with no drafts at all. But no word yet on how it’s going to go.
There will be a draft in mid-January at the NSCAA annual conference for players who have exhausted their NCAA eligibility (i.e., college seniors). That will be the only draft – all other non-national teamers are free agents.
What about internationals?
The Spirit have indicated that they’re expecting teams to be limited to two international players (other than the four from Canada and Mexico).
Is there any indication of when we might know any of this?
Nope! But they have said that the season will start in March or April, so it’s got to be well before then.
The teams have just been given the list of the 56 players to be allocated. Both the players and the teams have until around the end of the year to declare their preferences. Matchups will be done by a third party and announced in “very early” January. The college draft, as previously noted, will most likely be on Friday, January 18, during the NSCAA convention. Free agent signings will follow later in the month and into February.
So keep your eyes here on AllWhiteKit, and I’ll be posting updates as I get them.