Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) announced today that it has entered an agreement with a Bay Area investor group to operate a team that will play in the League's inaugural 2009 season. The addition of the Bay Area alongside Los Angeles gives WPS two franchises located on the West Coast.
Led by Brian and Nancy NeSmith, the Bay Area ownership group joins investors in Boston, Chicago, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis, Washington, D.C. and L.A. as teams planned for the League's 2009 season, thereby giving the League a national footprint of three East Coast, two Midwest and two West Coast franchises. WPS will expand to Atlanta and Philadelphia in 2010 and continues to explore additional potential franchises for 2010 and beyond. The WPS team planned for Dallas is now slated to begin play in 2010 as the League continues to work on securing a facility, with the intention that the Team will start play in the League's second season.
"As one of the top six media markets in the country, the Bay Area is a prime growth opportunity for WPS as we seek to raise the League's profile among soccer fans, other potential owners, and sponsors alike," said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci, whose League headquarters are based in San Francisco.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Coat Systems, Brian NeSmith leads the company in its mission to provide organizations with total visibility and control of all Web communications. NeSmith has strategically guided Blue Coat Systems, formerly known as CacheFlow, into the number one proxy appliance position worldwide. Previously, he co-founded and was CEO of Ipsilon Networks, which was purchased by Nokia in 1997. He and his wife, Nancy – the first female WPS majority owner – have two soccer-playing daughters.
"Nancy and I are eager to unite the Bay Area soccer community through a local WPS team, which will draw fans from across the region who can rally behind some of the world's greatest athletes right here in Northern California," said Brian NeSmith. "We're especially looking forward to exploring and implementing cutting-edge technology that will connect our brand, players, and fans. Whether via blogs, photo and video sharing, or innovative in-stadium experiences, WPS and its teams will be ground-breaking in the level of unique brand and player interaction we offer."
"With the U.S. Women bringing home Olympic gold and more girls playing soccer than ever before, this is the perfect time to raise the level of play in this country through WPS," said Nancy NeSmith. "I personally am proud to play a role in giving female athletes from around the globe an opportunity to play professionally and, from an ownership perspective, am looking forward to establishing the cornerstones of our Bay Area franchise at this month's allocation of the U.S. Women's National team."
"As a resident of the Bay Area myself, I'm eager to welcome Brian and Nancy to WPS," said Jeff Mallet, WPS investor, San Francisco Giants investor, and former president of Yahoo! "This is a great soccer – and overall sports – market that will continue to thrive with Brian and Nancy's support. Their commitment to the Bay Area soccer community, along with Brian's long-time involvement with area businesses, will allow a WPS team in the Bay Area to succeed."
The Bay Area has a rich soccer history as the WUSA's CyberRays called the region home from 2001-2003, winning that league's inaugural championship in 2001. In addition, the San Jose Earthquakes have played a major role in Major League Soccer, winning two MLS Cup titles, and were also a member of the North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1984. Santa Clara, Cal-Berkeley and Stanford's renowned collegiate women's soccer programs are also based in the Bay Area.
Plans for the Bay Area's WPS nickname, logo, and colors as well as its stadium and coaching and front office staff will be announced at a later date. Until then, the Bay Area team will participate in the mid-September allocation of the U.S. Women's National Team, gold medalists in the 2008 Olympic Games. Additional details regarding allocation and the subsequent international draft and regional combines can be found online at www.womensprosoccer.com.
About Women's Professional Soccer (WPS)
The mission of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) is to be the premier women's soccer league in the world and the global standard by which women's professional sports are measured. Play kicks off in the spring of 2009, with WPS teams based in the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. The league will expand in 2010 with the inclusion of Atlanta, Dallas, and Philadelphia. For more information, visit www.womensprosoccer.com.