I am sure that like me, most of you wondered how the Sounders Women could possibly afford the star power that they have signed for this season. I wondered how the new ownership could possibly throw that much money at the few players with big names, and still afford to field an entire high quality team. I wondered how the heck they enticed the great Hope Solo to come play for us, before she and her teammates run off to win the gold in the Olympics. If you look at the team that they have signed, almost every one of them has ties to the Pacific Northwest. Sydney Leroux is from Surrey, British Columbia; Hope is from Richland, Washington; Alex Morgan is dating Servando Carrasco from the Seattle Sounders FC; Megan Rapinoe played for the University of Portland; Veronica Perez is a UW Husky; Megan Manthey is from Ferndale, Washington; Kate Deines is from Issaquah, Washington; Lyndsey Elston was a Husky; and Keelin Winters went to the University of Portland. Seven of those players have worn the USA jersey, Veronica plays on the Mexican National team. Holy cow! That's some serious soccer, right there.
It's the local ties, not the money. I was shocked, and slightly appalled that these women have signed one year "contracts" which I'm told is the normal length of contracts in the W-League, for $0 dollars. That's right, ZERO, nada, zip, nothin! The W-League is amateur in nature. That means that the current college girls on the roster would lose their eligibility to play if the Pros were paid. So, my fellow Sounder fans, these women are putting their passion for top quality play in front of their need to make a living.
The plans for 2013 are to hopefully move up to a new W-League "Pro" division. The W-League is allegedly presenting a new financial model in the coming weeks to current ownership and GM's around the W-League. Their hope, according to GM Amy Carnell, is to get teams from each division to move up. That would probably be the Sounders Women, the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Pali Blues, and perhaps the Colorado Rapids from our current division. Portland is being encouraged, but right now, there is nothing solid coming from the Timbers front office.
This moving up hinges on how we as fans support this team. We have to have our butts in Starfire, to support the ladies that are out there playing their hearts out to be Sounders for years to come. We have to buy the mock jerseys; the sponsor T-shirts and the scarves. We have to tell our friends to get out there and support this team in any way possible. Wear those shirts and jerseys away from the games so that people ask you about the Sounders Women. Raise a pint in Kells Irish Pub and thank them for their loyal support of this team. If your kid plays on a club team, have their team go to a game or two. Group tickets should be on sale now. This is high quality soccer, and they will learn a thing or two from these women.
Get behind these players, like you have gotten behind the Sounders FC. Chant, sing and stand for them. Ask your local news stations to cover the Sounders Women, and comment on the stories that they do write, so that they can see there is interest. It's all about the mighty dollar. Sad, but true. If we can show that we will still be here, even if some of the national players move on, then the front office will see that it's wise to move up to the W-League Pro level. The sponsors will be more willing to up their sponsorship as well. The team will be able to afford these players on the pro level (provided that the salary cap doesn't prohibit that).
This year, the stars have aligned for the Sounders Women. We have a passionate GM in Amy Carnell. Our coach, Michelle French, is top flight and well respected in the community and the soccer world as a whole. Her contacts with coach Pia Sundhage have helped land the National Team players. The goal of the new owners, and the staff, is to run a professional team with the Sounders FC as their model. They want to show the players that this is the best place in the nation to play. They want to build relationships with these players, so that they have solid foundations set when the Sounders Women move to the pro level. They basically have one year to show that they can do this on a professional level. We need to be behind them with our Sounder pride and passion. We need to embrace this team as our own, because it is.
I think every professional athlete makes decisions because of both professional and personal reasons. However for me returning to Seattle wasn't simply because my boyfriend or family is here, it’s because I am passionate about helping the women's game in a city that has done so much for me. And one day I want to retire here in Seattle the same as Kasey did.
Alex Morgan echos that sentiment, by saying that she wants to bring exposure to the team and the league so that there is a place for professional soccer women to play locally in the future. Not just for the next three years. Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Alex are the faces of the future National team; along with Kate Deines, Keelin Winters and Lindsay Elston who all have experience with the National U20 and U23 teams. How great would that be to continue to watch these players evolve right before our eyes as Sounders Women? How great would it be to wear the Sounders Women jerseys of these players when we stand and cheer for them in Canada at the World Cup in 2015?
The Sounders Women front office are planning on keeping the current players for years to come. We know that Hope wants to stay. We know that Alex and perhaps Sydney want to stay. I know that Megan Rapinoe is someone that the Sounders Women really want to keep. The only way for these players to stay is for we the fans to support them. The National Team players will be able to play most of the home games, with the exception of Rapinoe who has sponsor obligations that get in the way as well as her National Team duties. They will be restricted from traveling because of their rigorous Olympic training schedule. They should all be at the Vancouver Whitecaps game though, which kicks off the official season on Sunday, May 27th. For the rest of the away games, the team will be able to show their depth. They have a roster complete with former WPS, college all-stars and well rounded players. They will still be okay, they are Sounders after all.