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U.S. WNT Responds to Women's United Soccer Association Suspending Operations


The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) announced today that it is suspending operations, effective immediately.  The decision was made by the league's Board of Governors at a meeting today in New York City as a result of insufficient revenue to support a fourth year of play. The announcement came as the U.S. Women's National Team goes through its final week of training in Charlottesville, Va., in preparation for the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003, which starts on Sept. 20. After their afternoon training match, the players talked with the media about the difficult news. Here are their quotes along with a statement from U.S. Soccer President Dr. S. Robert Contiguglia:

U.S. SOCCER PRESIDENT DR. S. ROBERT CONTIGUGLIA

"There is never a good time for news of this nature, and we are obviously saddened for not only the players and coaches, but the fans, administrators and investors in the league, as well. The league has been very positive for the sport across the United States, and we appreciate the hard work from everyone involved in providing the highest level of professional women’s soccer in the world. It is disappointing that the league could not find the additional investors and funding they needed to continue."

On how it might affect the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003...
“On the field, you still have the greatest players in the world competing in this competition. They are professional players and they know how important this tournament is, not only to them, but in the growth and popularity of women’s soccer around the world.”

“If anything, something like this could inspire the players to play even better. We certainly encourage fans of all women’s athletics to come out and support the tournament, which we are confident they will do.”

MIDFIELDER AND U.S. CO-CAPTAIN JULIE FOUDY

On the league suspending operations…

"People knew it was coming, but for a long time we were hoping we could keep it alive and we still hope that. I think there is a great sense among this team that we’ve got 30 days of great visibility and tremendous fan support. For us, this is more than about soccer, this is about incredible role models and people, and how you’re empowering a lot of young girls and boys with having this league around. Reviving the league will be a top priority for us."

"The interesting thing was that we were so close (to having the league succeed) and it is a small gap we have to close. We need some corporate sponsors and, over the next few weeks, we have a chance to market our sport to them."

On announcing it now…

"We just thought that if you try to keep something like this under wraps for another month then the possibility of leaks are just too great. We felt that as a group it is better to deal with it now and talk about it. We’re keeping the possibility alive that we can revive the league if more sponsors and investors come forward. It is better than pretending everything is rosy through the World Cup."

On it being a distraction…

"I wish we would have had the possibility to not have this distraction, absolutely. But the reality of the situation and our team is that we are not genetically pre-disposed to giving up. You never know. The odds are stacked against us, but I think there is a distinct possibility that we can keep it alive."

On how the league was a benefit to player development…

"Look at someone like Shannon Boxx who came in with zero caps before our final two send-off games. Kylie Bivens has benefited from the league. Tiffany Roberts’s career was resurrected because of it. Angela Hucles is here because of how she played in the league. There’s so many great stories and not just with our team in the U.S., but with other national teams and helping them along as well."

On the importance of the league…

"The great thing is this league represents more than soccer to us. There is an element to this that is unique. There is something special about not just young girls, but young boys watching women play and learning to respect that they are professional athletes. There was an incredible connection with communities and the fans, and to let that go is a tragic loss for a lot of kids out there."

DEFENDER AND U.S. CO-CAPTAIN JOY FAWCETT

On trying to keep the league running...

"We’re not going to go out without a fight here. I know there are people that love the game and want to get involved, so hopefully we can restructure and re-organize and get the league back on its feet."

FORWARD SHANNON MacMILLAN

On hearing the league suspended operations…

"I think it is definitely heart-breaking. You look at this team and see some of the players who are here because of the WUSA. We’re also coming into this World Cup game-fit because we’re coming out of the season. It’s disappointing because it was the best league in the world. We’re still hopeful we can save it though and that this World Cup can generate a lot of support."

On staying focused…

"It’s hard in the sense that it is the last thing you want to be focusing on, but at the same time we can use this to roll into the World Cup. We can be ambassadors and say, ‘hey, we need help.’ We’re not ashamed to ask for help. We need more big-time investors to step up, and fuel our dream by believing in us."

U.S. HEAD COACH APRIL HEINRICHS

On staying focused…

"Our women are eternal optimists. We are all very disappointed with the league’s collapse right now, but we’re also optimistic. We have 30 days where everybody is sticking microphones and cameras in front of us. These women are well spoken and if there are investors out there, I think this group can inspire them. I think the World Cup could also inspire investors to step up."

On it being a distraction…

"I think that we will be discussing it and answering questions by the media and I think players are concerned. I think there will be a few days that we will have to deal with the black cloud and then we will have to put it behind them. I have great faith in these women and know they will be able to handle it during the World Cup. My confidence is that these women are so good at handling issues and when the time comes they are going to put it away."

How the league helped the national team…

"The league has been great. The first three years of the WUSA were marvelous in terms of helping identify new players and providing them with an opportunity. Certainly it has helped bring new players to our team. Years four, five and six were going to be far more exciting in terms of the potential of the team to develop and help create a new core for this team. "

U.S. MIDFIELDER SHANNON BOXX

On the league suspending operations…

"Having this league here is a dream come true and I just feel bad for all the little girls who had a great dream of playing in the WUSA."

On the timing…

"Obviously it isn’t the best timing, but we are all professional and we all know how to handle it. We all know right now we have to be focused on the World Cup. We’re going to go out and do whatever we can to win the World Cup."

U.S. FORWARD MIA HAMM

On the league suspending operations…

"We’re sad. We’re all sad. This isn’t like a bus that you missed. This is something that we’ve all invested so much time and energy. I keep saying it goes beyond this team and to the women you train with everyday. We continue to find the positive in it and continue to have hope."

On bringing the league back…

"I haven’t given up. There is too much good in this league. So much of that good is the players that show up everyday and there have been great stories like Shannon Boxx. We will push through and hopefully this World Cup will provide new potential investors and sponsors."

"I am extremely proud to be a part of the WUSA. We are not giving up by any means. The economic times are not as favorable now as they were in '99, but hopefully we can push forward and rally from it."

On the timing…

"We looked at every angle. We didn't want to (make an announcement before the World Cup), but we had no choice. We have to use this as motivation (in the World Cup).  We are not only playing for ourselves, but for all the women in the league."

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