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WUSA's Future Hinges on Meeting

Committee will convene after the Women's World Cup third-place game to discuss a plan to revive the league.

October 11, 2003|Lauren Peterson | Times Staff Writer

A committee hoping to revive the suspended Women's United Soccer Assn. will meet today after the Women's World Cup third-place game in Carson involving the United States and Canada.

The 12-15 people involved will discuss the professional league's logistical and financial future, as well as a plan to resurrect WUSA for the 2004 season and beyond.

"The second founding of the league is something that's going to happen over the next 60 days, and this weekend is critical as a start to that process," said John Hendricks, WUSA founder and chairman of the board of governors.

At the meeting will be potential WUSA investors, league officials and outside business consultants. Participants hope to solidify WUSA's future at least through 2005 and provide a blueprint for what could be an eventual 10-year plan.

"We wouldn't do 2004 unless we were planning on a longer-lasting league," said John Langel, attorney for the WUSA players' association and the U.S. women's national team, including 19 members who played in the league.

The air of hope arose from support for the league that began when it folded Sept. 15 and continued during the Women's World Cup. "I think the league's decision to suspend [operations] took some sponsors by surprise, and those people have responded appropriately and positively," Langel said.

The optimism of Hendricks, Langel and others is guarded, however, because no contracts have been drawn up yet.

"I kind of have the view of 'Show me the money,' " said Marlene Bjornsrud, general manager of the San Jose CyberRays.

League expenditures in 2003 were $35.6 million, with $15.7 million in revenue, for a loss of $19.9 million. In 3 1/2years of operation beginning in 2000, the league recorded losses of $101.6 million.

Without naming companies, Langel said there were between "eight and 10" major corporate sponsors that have shown what he considers to be serious interest in investing in WUSA. Mike Ritz, the league's vice president of corporate partnerships, estimated that 20-30 companies had approached him to inquire about sponsorship.

"It's rare that a company contacts you about sponsoring, and that has happened," Ritz said.

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