The Women's United Soccer Association, or WUSA, kicks off its second season Saturday. Following a successful inaugural season in 2001, the WUSA features a few minor changes for the league's second year. Two of the eight teams will play in different stadiums. The Carolina Courage will move into the league's first soccer-specific stadium, while the Atlanta Beat will switch from the stadium at Georgia Tech University to Herndon Stadium in downtown Atlanta, which was a 1996 Olympic venue. There are eight teams in the league. The others are located in San Diego and San Jose, California, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and here in Washington.
League Commissioner Tony DiCicco, the former U.S. women's soccer team head coach, says it's important for the clubs to have good facilities.
"The key for us is to create a really fun, festive, intimate environment in our stadiums," he said. "And we have neat stadiums to watch games, except for RFK, in Washington. They're smaller stadiums where you're very intimate, close to the competition, great sound systems, video boards and things like that to enhance the overall experience."
WUSA games averaged more than 8,000 fans per game last year, and DiCicco says he hopes that will improve. The average ticket price this season is $15, and youth tickets go for $10 or less.
18 different countries are represented on the eight U.S. teams. A team can have a maximum of four foreign players.
Commissioner DiCicco said all the league's goals for last year were reached, but he acknowledged the WUSA has had to make adjustments to its business plan.
"We think we have a business plan now that we can look ahead three, four or five years and see where this league can start making a profit," he said.
Tony DiCicco says sponsorships are strong. To help make the women's soccer league successful, the founding players, who are equity owners of the WUSA, agreed to hold down salaries. The average last year was $40,000 and this year it is $45,000.