With the kickoff of the inaugural Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Elite League season only days away, teams are making final preparations to take the field in what promises to be an exciting season of high-level women’s soccer.
With three former Women’s Professional League (WPS) teams, four top WPSL sides and an independent team competing, fans of the women’s game can look forward to the kind of action that many feared would be lost with the suspension of the 2012 WPS season.
“We are pleased that the WPSL Elite League teams have been able to prepare so quickly for the inaugural 2012 season,” said WPSL Commissioner Jerry Zanelli. “Our goal all along has been to provide high-level women’s soccer for fans of the game. The teams in our Elite League will do just that.”
The WPSL Elite League was formed shortly after the WPS announced the suspension of the 2012 season. Zanelli and the WPSL administrative team worked quickly to bring together eight quality teams that would provide both exciting soccer and high-level competition for WPS players displaced by the cancellation. WPS Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash quickly signed on, along with the WPSL’s Chicago Red Stars, who had played in the professional league in 2009 and 2010, and FC Indiana.
Since that initial group, the league has added ASA Chesapeake Charge, New England Mutiny and New York Fury from the WPSL and the independent Philadelphia Fever. The season will open on Thursday, May 10, when Charge host the Breakers, followed by Fury at Mutiny and FC Indiana at WNY Flash on Saturday, May 12.
Because of the structure of the WPSL Elite League, some teams will compete with a mix of professional and post-college amateurs, while other will be all-amateur teams with top college athletes. Each team will field a quality side and games will be challenging and competitive. Playing on the same pitch as seasoned professionals will provide college players with an opportunity not seen in collegiate action. Not every top-level athlete in the WPSL Elite League has played professionally, and several with U.S. National Teams experience will grace the rosters of competitors.
ASA Chesapeake Charge will open the season with a roster that includes several players from the highly-ranked University of Maryland women’s soccer team, including U.S. Women’s U-18 National Team members Ashley Spivey and Riley Barger. The team will also feature U.S. Women’s National Team and U.S. Women’s U-23 National Team member Christine Nairn and former U-23 player Laura Kane.
Boston Breakers will field a team that includes U-23 team members Bianca D’Agostino, Melissa Henderson, Ellie Reed and Amanda DaCosta. The Breakers will also showcase former National Team players Catherine Whitehill and Leslie Osborne and Australian internationals Kyah Simon and Tameka Butt. The Breakers have also signed U.S. National Team legend Kristine Lilly as assistant coach.
Chicago Red Stars will open the season with a roster that includes former National Team standout Lori Chalupny and WPS veterans Jen Buczkowski and Julianne Sitch. The team will also return Amanda Cinalli, Jackie Santacaterina and Michele Weissenhofer who have all previously played with the Red Stars and who bring WPS experience to the field.
FC Indiana, under the direction of head coach Shek Borkowski, will feature several members of the Haiti Women’s National Team that Borkowski also manages. The team also features long-time defender Corie Moore, who brings the experience of championships in both WPSL and U.S. Open Cup competition, and goalkeeper Jeanette Williams.
New England Mutiny’s roster will include Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team member and former Danish Elitedivisionen player Ciara McCormack and current U.S. U-23 and Florida State University player Toni Pressley. Also on board for the Mutiny are former Vancouver Whitecaps Women and University of Minnesota standout Kelsey Hood, Boston College star and U.S. National Team trialist Kristen Mewis and U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year finalist Morgan Andrews.
New York Fury head coach Paul Riley has assembled a team that includes several players from the Philadelphia Independence team he coached in the WPS. Joining Riley will be former WPS players Gina and Tina DiMartino, Kia McNeill, Brittany Taylor and Nikki Krzysik. Also signing on with New York is U.S. National Team midfielder Tobin Heath, who was the 2009 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year and a member of the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal team.
Philadelphia Fury will open the season with a team of talented, though relatively unknown, players drawn from clubs around the region. Head coach Stuart Gore and assistant coach Jamie Scott have spent countless hours building a roster from scratch to compete with the talent on the other WPSL Elite League teams. “I believe they’ve done a great job and I believe they have embraced the role of the ‘underdog team,’” said General Manager Ulises Terrones.
Western New York Flash will field a team heavy on returning players from their 2011 WPS Championship team. Among the returnees are popular midfielder/forward McCall Zerboni, defender Alex Sahlen and goalkeeper Brittany Cameron. Also coming back to don the Flash colors is Kimberly Brandao who captains the Portuguese Women’s National Team and has played professionally in the Swedish Damallsvenskan and the Spanish Supeliga Femenina.
“This will be an exciting season,” said Zanelli, “and I encourage all fans of soccer, not just the women’s game, to buy tickets and come out to support these talented teams.”
The 2012 WPSL Elite League season will run from May 10 through July 22, with the playoff format to be announced later.