The creation of the new league was first announced at the WPSL Annual General Meeting in Las Vegas in January, 2012. An agreement with the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) will aid in the development of the new league. USASA has identified the U-20 level as an age group where players are under-utilized and has implemented changes in registration fees, among other enhancements.
The new U-20 League will be a separate league from the WPSL and the newly formed WPSL Elite League. Teams in the U-20 League may be affiliated with current WPSL teams, acting as reserve or “farm” teams, or they can be stand-alone organizations.
“A WPSL team can start a U-20 team and reach out to those younger players who are home for summer from college,” explained Simms. “They might not be good enough to make the full WPSL team, but they still want to train and play throughout the summer. So that’s one avenue for the WPSL team. The other thing that it does for WPSL teams is, some of them have huge player pools and they can’t field all the players. This gives them a way to have a farm team or a reserve team.”
In areas where there are currently no WPSL teams, the new U-20 League creates an opportunity for top youth clubs to develop their own U-20 teams. If players in an area are interested, the WPSL will assist in setting up a special U-20 region, which could eventually lead to the creation of a full WPSL team.
The paper headache - Part of the drive to developing the new league as the difficulty of moving players from currently-formed U-20 teams (not affiliated with WPSL) to an existing WPSL team. The amount of paperwork required frequently made the move impracticable. The WPSL has been working for several years on ways to deal with this predicament.
“Last year Jerry Zanelli and I talked about how we could get players registered through the WPSL so that it’s a seamless transition and they become one pool,” said Simms. “There was no way to easily move a player in a U-20 league that was not affiliated onto a WPSL team.”
The involvement of USASA has made the process of setting up the new league less cumbersome and expensive.
“USASA made it very attractive for U-20s to resister and play,” Simms said. “Then they went out and asked leagues like the WPSL to start finding U-20s. That’s when the idea really solidified and we began to work on the new league.”
Several WPSL teams have already expressed interest in the new U-20 League. Jill Lounsbury, general manager of the San Francisco Nighthawks, is a strong supporter of the program. “This year when they brought in the new U-20 system we jumped on that,” said Lounsbury, “because there are so many girls who come back home and they’re not good enough quite yet to play with us, but they’re good enough to play at a really high level.”
The new league will also aid college coaches who want to see their players continue active in the sport during the summer. “
They see there is someplace for these kids to play when they come home from college instead of sitting around all summer – and their college coaches don’t like that,” Lounsbury explained, “so now they are going to have someplace to play.”
The new U-20 League will also provide an additional outlet for sponsors working with current WPSL teams. “It’s further exposure for their sponsors,” Simms pointed out. “In this economy, sponsors are scarce and they really want to see some return on their investment for their sponsorship dollars. This is another group of players wearing their product or wearing their name. It’s another group of fans and families that are seeing their name and seeing that brand identification. It’s a benefit all the way around for the WPSL teams.”
The development of the U-20 League is one more step in the WPSL’s plans to create a women’s soccer pyramid that will provide opportunities at multiple levels. By establishing U-20 teams, the WPSL will help to close the gaps currently existing in the women’s soccer system. “We can now have organized soccer going from age four to adult with no gaps,” said Simms.
The goal of the WPSL is to begin the U-20 League with West Coast and East Coast regions and eventually grow into a nationwide league. “Ideally every WPSL team would have a farm team or reserve team so that there is always a pool of talent being groomed and continuing to funnel in to the WPSL,” Simms said. “That’s going to take some time, obviously, but we have such a good base of WPSL teams now that those who need that farm system should help it grow.”
# # #
# # #
The Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) is the largest national Women’s Soccer League in the world. With more than 70-plus women’s soccer teams, the WPSL is the leading amateur soccer league in America.