Local News

Could a Women's Pro Soccer League Kick In To Triangle?

Posted July 5, 1999

— TheWomen's World Cupis proving that the popularity of women's soccer is at an all-time high in the United States, but will the Cup's success help launch a true professional soccer league for women?

Right now the highest avenue for women is the W-League, where only a handful of players on each team get paid -- that may change soon.

"A lot of major corporate sponsorship have all of a sudden, just in the past couple of weeks, because of the success of women's soccer ... really started to jump on board and say 'Yeah, we're really interested in this women's league,'" says Bill Palladino, head coach of theRaleigh Wings.

The target date for the league is 2001. A committee meeting has been scheduled Friday in California to discuss its feasibility.

Insiders hope World Cup success will be the springboard for the new league.

"With all of the support, I think that one will happen the next couple of years," says Wings forward Kelly Walbert. "I think it would be wonderful."

However, TV and ticket success in the World Cup does not guarantee league success.

"We have theMLSmen's cup, and after their World Cup there was a lot of participation and attendance there," says Wings defender Thori Bryan, "and then they have their league, which is still not up to the levels they would like as far as attendance."

If the new league is founded, do not be surprised if there is a team in the Triangle. Raleigh is a leading contender for one of the 10 teams.

So far, the numbers for the World Cup are setting attendance records for a women's sporting event. The Cup final between the United States and China is already sold out, and more than 85,000 people are expected Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

"With a sellout of the final, our biggest day is still yet to come," said Marla Messing, president of the organizing committee. "I think we can say that the tournament has been a smashing success."

The crowd expected Saturday would be a record for a women's sporting event, Messing said. The current record is 78,972 for a World Cup doubleheader at Giants Stadium on June 19.

An average of more than 35,000 have attended the tournament matches, including more than 22,000 for games not involving the United States.

The organizing committee said Monday it sold its 650,000th ticket.

Saturday's doubleheader in Pasadena also features the third-place game between Norway and Brazil.

From staff and wire reports

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