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Let Freedom Ring

Pretty quiet day on the United and MLS front (so far). How about some Washington Freedom news? You remember them, right? Won the final WUSA title with Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach before the league went under in 2003. While the league did not last, the team did. They've been playing as a club the last few years under the same coach, Jim Gabarra, and are positioning themselves to jump back to the highest pro level if the recently proposed new women's league is, indeed, launched next year.

This summer the Freedom will compete in the W-League, a top minor league circuit, and play eight home games at Maryland SoccerPlex in Montgomery County (Germantown/Boyds), starting June 9. For more info, here's the club's Web site and the league's site.

Yesterday the Freedom announced that WUSA veterans Lori Lindsey, Nicci Wright and Casey Zimny as well as local players Kelly Hammond (Bowie/UVA), Melissa Whitley (Silver Spring/Princeton), Lisa Zanti (Rosedale, Md./WVU), Tara Kidwell (Leesburg/UAB) and Anabel Jimenez (D.C./AU), have been signed for this season.

If the big league re-starts next year, does it have a chance of surviving longer than the WUSA? Will better business decisions and an alliance with MLS improve its long-term viability? How will the U.S. national team's performance at the Women's World Cup this September in China impact the league's popularity? Wiill the absence of the sport's most famous players -- Hamm, Foudy and Co. -- undermine its credibility? Or will young stars such as Wambach develop their own following?

What do you think?

Meantime, the national team is off to a good start at the Algarve tournament in Portugal.


By Steve Goff  |  March 7, 2007; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Women  
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Comments

If they insist on going it alone and not working with MLS teams in doubleheaders, cobranding, etc. they will fail. Again.

Posted by: DCAustinite | March 7, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I think the pessimist's view would say that this is destined to be a niche sport, since the marketing muscle of the NBA has led to the limited success the WNBA is currently experiencing.

The optimist's view says the sky's the limit, as there really is no previous precedent to reference.

I'm not in any way involved in planning/organizing the SE/BB/LN stuff, but any chance there could be an event set up to cheer for the Freedom at their opening game?

Also, for Der Goff: Any word on the branding of these teams? Would they be the "Chicago Strikers" (for ex) or "Chicago Fire" if they're teaming with MLS?

Posted by: Logan Circle | March 7, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Too early to say. Long way to go before the league is formally launched.

Posted by: Goff | March 7, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Steve, do you know where is Abby Wambach is playing?

Posted by: Tweaked | March 7, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I give it as good a chance for success as women's basketball: namely, slim to none.

Posted by: Nick | March 7, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

They have to affiliate with MLS Clubs, it's the only way to keep costs down and to take advantage of a preexisting market. May not be the same market, but it certainly will have a significant overlap.

Posted by: Eric | March 7, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Wambach, I believe, is in full-time national team residency in preparation for World Cup. I'm sure she'll join a club after the World Cup.

Posted by: Goff | March 7, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

If they are teaming with MLS they should take the name of the MLS side or a variation.

ie Washington Freedom could become DC United Ladies.

Posted by: Hmmmm | March 7, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Will they succeed?

zzzzzzzzzz....

Posted by: Matt M | March 7, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it's just me, but I think Abby Wambach is more fun to watch than just about any other player, male or female, in the sport.

Posted by: Kurt | March 7, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Not sure the "ladies" monicker would work here like it does in Engerland. Lots of women soccer players I know don't like to be called ladies.

I don't see there really being too much hope for a new league. If the old one couldn't survive with all of those big names, and not just the American ones, I don't see how it could work now that all of those players have retired. I had Freedom season tix for the first season. But their games were just too annoying. The soccer was actually pretty good but the league decided to make every game into an 'event' like the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc all try to do. There was so much circus going on you couldn't really watch or enjoy the soccer game.

They'll need to set their expectations low I think.

Posted by: Glenn | March 7, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Logan Circle asked: "I'm not in any way involved in planning/organizing the SE/BB/LN stuff, but any chance there could be an event set up to cheer for the Freedom at their opening game?"

As someone who is in La Norte, I remember when we were almost ejected from RFK over putting a La Norte banner (in blue and red) for a Freedom doubleheader. I will never show up to cheer LN-style for the Freedom unless a certain employee is gone.

Posted by: Jacknut | March 7, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I coach a youth ladies side, and I have really looked forward to having those kinds of role models for my daughter and her teammates. I think it's a good thing, and I hope they are successful.

Posted by: Matt | March 7, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

La Barra Brava's mission is 100% support of DC United.

Posted by: Chico | March 7, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Its hilarious how hypocrital US Soccer fans are- You guys are insulting Womens soccer, the same way the media insults MLS & Soccer in General.

MLS could just have easily folded years ago if AEG & Hunt Sports didnt buy all the teams in the league.

Posted by: Boom | March 7, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

My understanding, from the various reports and from comments made by Tonya Antonucci, is that MLS may support the new league through joint ownership of teams and shared back offices, but the league will be independent of MLS. WMLS is certainly not under consideration. (In fact, the investors seem to like WUSA -- go figure.)

Only 5 of the 6 named ownership groups have been tied to specific cities -- LA, DC, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis. Antonucci wants 8 cities when the league starts.

It is way too early to guess which players will go where. I also can't see Freedom playing at RFK, except for a rare doubleheader with United. It is too large and expensive. (When I attended a couple of those doubleheaders, the United attendance was at least double Freedom's.) Germantown is more likely until Poplar Point (zzzzz...) is ready.

Posted by: ho | March 7, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Something's gonna have to be done about the tse-tse flies spreading all this sleeping sickness at Poplar Point.

Ouch! Think I just got bit.

zzz...

Posted by: garbaggio | March 7, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

While I think it is great that they are trying to do this again, I don't see how they can survive. I've been a season ticket holder for United from the start. My wife and I did buy tix for the Freedom because she wanted to support women's sports. I went to a few of the games and thought the stars (Mia, etc,) were good, but the other players, not so good. I saw better women players in my rec league. regardless of that fact, they will need to have women come support the sport. This may come across as sexist, but it is a much slower game and I don't like that. (same goes for college b-ball) I'm used to watching the men play and when I see the women play, it doesn't stack up. I liken it to watching high school football (women), then watching an NFL game (men). To be fair, I saw a year 2 game between United and the Wizards and the level of play was awful compared to the level of play today. I wish them the best, but I don't see it working financially. Some of the MLSers barely make enough to live on, on the MLS has much more money to work with. I've rambled enough.

Posted by: Steve | March 7, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

I'll take my kids to a few matches in Germantown this year. I agree with almost everything that's been written about the business and the playing level of women's soccer, but if fans don't support their local teams, those teams will surely fail.

One just has to realize that it's a different game and appreciate it for that, rather than expecting it to be the premiership, soda-pop championship, or MLS.

Having written that, the WUSAII or whatever needs to sell the entire experience, like a minor league baseball team does.

Posted by: I-270 Exit 1 | March 7, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

So between DCU, the Freedom and pro lacrosse (Bayhawks), does this mean Poplar Point is closer to being realized?

Posted by: Juan-John | March 7, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm hardly a big women's soccer fan, but Boom got it right.

It's soccer in the U.S.

Support it, or don't complain about the lack of support for the type of soccer you like.

Posted by: Eric | March 7, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see Tara Kidwell was signed. Many years ago she and my daughter played on the same travel team, and I took them both to a US Women's National team game at RFK. Tara, watching the game, said to me that she was going to be on that team some day. Glad she's still chasing that dream.

As to Freedom becoming United's ladies, I don't think so. I'd guess they've spent a lot of money and effort to keep the name and team alive. Not likely to drop it now. Anyway, I look for the return, someday, of their championship banner to hang alongside United's as it used to.

Posted by: seahawkdad | March 7, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

It has a good chance of succeeding if the folks behind it realize they have to start small. It sounds like they did.

Also echo the comments of folks about who think it's just really idiotic to belittle the women's game. The more people that play, the more the game grows and the better coverage it gets.

Posted by: Dave | March 7, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What really killed the WUSA was exorbitant spending. If the new league can match the first WUSA's attendance and keep spending down as they claim to be able to do, then it can absolutely survive. It doesn't have to be the next NFL to be a success.

Posted by: Ash | March 7, 2007 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I think the lack of the uber-players (Hamm, Chastain, etc) will benefit the league in the long run. Not faulting these players efforts, but since the general public and media was so overfocused on them after 1999, the league never had a chance to really grow beyond them. It won't get off to a 34000-at-RFK start as a result, but will have stronger roots in the end. As for followings, hopefully teams will have stronger followings than individual players.

To answer the first question - of course it has a chance of lasting longer than WUSA, it can't possibly be run any worse. I was there with you Jacknut, and let the Freedom GM know the team lost a lot of potential fans that day.

Posted by: Ron K | March 7, 2007 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see AJ and LZ signed...Former Md Pride players...probably going to be nothing more than training for these players vs. other W league teams, however Boston and LI may give them a run. I wonder what the Team in Raliegh is doing. Good to see the team practicing, unfortunatley it still doesnt represent the best the area has to offer. Hendricks should have taken the advice 5+ years ago and worked w/ MLS... he could have made it work if had worked closer. now it seems he has learned his lesson. Interesting to see if his daughter is playing anywhere on a team. isn't that the reason he got involved originally??? I agree woth other posters on this thread... it is good to have the role models. no doubt. but dont get fooled into thinking the freedom in the W league is newsworthy. what is the competition they will be playing. what should have happened 5 years ago is the higher level W league teams should have been promoted into the WUSA and a minor league established. now you have (and had) rival leagues. money was a factor. and big money lost out. wusa failed. w league teams stayed. the reason? lower operating expenses and great players who were role models and accesible. as long as old regime front office are involved in the freedom, it will never shine. there are way better players in the area that could play with and beat the freedom. gimmee a squad of 5 players each from md, va, mason and WM and they could play with the freedom. add in 4 youth players around 18 years old from the bethesda and NOva clubs and boom, there is a team to watch. better yet, they would be local and bring the local fans to watch them. Gaberra is good, but not the only capable coach in the area. there are plenty more with far more expereince and connections. couple a coaching staff with a front office and you get success. right now it is not there, and there is no solid platform to launch the new team locally. too bad really. b/c we are a rich area of talent.

Posted by: E.P. | March 8, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry Boom but just because I support DC United does not mean I have to support a women's team (or any other soccer team for that matter). DC United takes more than enough of my time, energy and $. I suffered through those Freedom/DCU doubleheaders, they were a nightmare (clashing supporting cultures, overly long afternoons in the heat, never again!) If the women want to give it a go again, well good luck to them and I hope they learned some lessons from the last time.

K

Posted by: SEKim | March 8, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

With several new SS stadiums around now, compared to when WUSA folded, that's got to help their prospects, doesn't it?

And when I was a ref, long ago, soccer fields could be rectangles from 100 to 130 yards long, and 50 to 100 wide . . . it would probably help if WUSA fields were closer to 100 x 50, no? Unless they have a lot of Michelle Akers-types who can use the full 130.

Posted by: gringo | March 8, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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