SAN FRANCISCO – The Women's Professional Soccer league has folded after three seasons.
The WPS had canceled the 2012 season in January, at the time hoping to return next year.
"We sincerely regret having to take this course of action," T. Fitz Johnson, owner of the Atlanta Beat and chairman of the board of governors, said in a statement Friday.
The league's predecessor, WUSA, also lasted only three seasons, burning through more than $100 million in investments in the euphoric aftermath of the U.S. victory at the 1999 World Cup. American fans again watched the Women's World Cup in large numbers last summer, but it wasn't enough to save the WPS. Women's soccer could again attract big audiences during this year's London Olympics if the U.S. team advances far.
The 2012 WPS season was scrapped amid a legal dispute with an ousted owner. League officials had clashed with Dan Borislow of the South Florida franchise all last season and tried to terminate the club in October. The WPS said Friday it had reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with Borislow, who sued the league last summer.
Now U.S. stars such as Abby Wambach and Hope Solo will have to find other ways to stay sharp after the Olympics.
"Our mission from the national team's perspective is still the same. For us, it's about working for that gold medal," Wambach said during the U.S. team's training camp. "Of course, we're all saddened by the news of the WPS, but as the 2012 season was already suspended, we made it our goal to do everything we could within our power to help the future professional league in the United States. We can only control what we can control to give professional women's soccer a chance here in the United States in the future, and right now that means preparing as hard as we can for the Olympics."
The WPS debuted with seven teams in 2009. Franchises in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and the Bay Area folded, and teams were added in Philadelphia, Atlanta and western New York. The league had six clubs last season and was preparing to play in 2012 with five, requiring a waiver to be sanctioned by U.S. Soccer, after the South Florida franchise was terminated.
Borislow purchased the former Washington Freedom before last season and moved the club to South Florida, renaming it for a telephone call device he invented. The magicJack franchise was repeatedly disciplined during the season for not meeting league standards. In August, after Borislow filed suit against the WPS, the league released a statement accusing him of violations ranging from "unprofessional and disparaging treatment of his players to failure to pay his bills."