Washington may finally have a chance for a winning pro sports team.

The Redskins? No, it's too early to tell.

D.C. United with Freddy Adu? Sorry, but United has scored only 10 goals in eight games. If you can't score, you can't win, even in soccer.

I mean the Washington Mystics, who open their season Saturday night. I know the Mystics had a sorry 9-25 record last season in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), but lots of things have changed since then. First, the Mystics picked Alana Beard in the WNBA draft. Beard is the all-everything star from Duke who won the John R. Wooden Award as the outstanding female college basketball player in the nation. She scored 19.7 points, grabbed 5.4 rebounds and had 3.9 assists a game her senior season. Believe me, Alana Beard can do it all.

The Mystics also picked up center Chasity Melvin when her team, the Cleveland Rockers, folded after the 2003 WNBA season. Melvin averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year. At 6 feet 3, she will fill a big hole in the middle of the Mystics lineup.

These additions should make returning Mystics such as star forward Chamique Holdsclaw even better. When Holdsclaw came to the WNBA from Tennessee, she looked like she might be the female Michael Jordan. But the Mystics have been a big disappointment, so folks have forgotten that she can still play. If Holdsclaw stays healthy, she should be good for close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.

So, will the Mystics be ready to challenge the top teams? Probably not this year. The defending champion Detroit Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks with superstar Lisa Leslie are still too strong and too experienced for the Mystics. But Washington should make the playoffs.

If you are one of those basketball fans who likes only the men of the NBA, there are some reasons to give the WNBA a look this season.

First, the WNBA is loaded with new players. Unlike lots of NBA rookies who are barely out of high school, Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Nicole Powell (Charlotte Sting), Lindsay Whalen (Connecticut Sun) and Beard are all four-year college players who are ready to be stars.

Second, the women play a fun, team-oriented game that features more passing and less individual play. Kids who like basketball will learn more by watching the women move the ball around than by watching giants such as Shaq or Kevin Garnett soar to the rim.

Third, the WNBA is a lot cheaper than the NBA. Teams such as the Mystics have lots of ways to attend games that won't put Mom or Dad in the poor house.

Oh yeah, there's one more reason: The Mystics are going to be good this season.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Alana Beard, center, helps give the Washington Mystics a new look and fresh hope.