After running a tournament that lured more than 658,000 fans to women's soccer games, Women's World Cup President and CEO Marla Messing says the only running she will do in the coming weeks is on local sidewalks. And, she said, she plans to turn her attention from filling stadiums nationwide to bringing a much smaller crowd together: her family.
Messing led the Women's World Cup effort for three years and also directed the marketing effort for the 1994 men's World Cup, which sold 3.5 million tickets for games throughout the United States. With the conclusion of this three-week tournament Saturday, Messing said she plans to duck out of the spotlight -- and into her own house in Brentwood, Calif.
The tournament, which drew record-breaking crowds, ended with the U.S. team's victory over China in Saturday's championship match in front of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. That was the largest crowd to attend a women's sporting event.
Though Messing has been mentioned as a possible successor to Major League Soccer Commissioner Doug Logan, she said her most ambitious goal for the coming months is to run the New York City marathon for the first time. And her most serious ambition is to get reacquainted with her husband, Brett, and daughters Natalie, 2, and Samantha, who will turn 1 in August.
"Working and having a family, it's a lot," Messing said. "I was able to do it because my job was finite. It had an end in sight. It's a challenge to have a family and give them everything they need, when you have a job as demanding as this. I couldn't do this again if it was a permanent position. These jobs are sprints, not marathons. You sacrifice."
Messing's work ethic is such that she worked on the business plan for the Women's World Cup until the very day she gave birth to Samantha -- who was born on a Thursday night late last summer. Messing went back to work the next week, albeit from a home office.
Brett Messing, a Harvard law school graduate and chairman of his own company in Santa Monica, often works the same 12-hour days as his wife. The two have employed a live-in nanny to take care of their children.
"We're very excited about having her back," he said. "I don't think Marla's had a day off since February 1st. It's been every single weekend, seven days a week. . . . I hope she does nothing for a while. Samantha and Natalie and I voted, and we voted for nothing."
After attending law school at the University of Chicago, Marla Messing joined Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles, where she worked under Alan Rothenberg, the former president of the U.S. Soccer Federation who ran the 1994 men's World Cup. She was acclaimed for her work on that tournament, which churned out about $70 million in profits.
When all the accounting is complete, the Women's World Cup is expected to have generated a surplus of from $2 million to $7 million. In fact, Messing said, organizers intended for the tournament merely to break even, as they kept pouring extra money back into it to make it a first-class event.
Because of the surplus, Messing told the 20 U.S. players today they had earned a $750,000 team bonus for their exceptional work -- as players and promoters -- during the tournament. The other profits will go to the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Messing said she plans to finish the tournament's bookkeeping as soon as possible and get on with her extended vacation.
"Apparently there are bets on how long it will be before I will go back to work," Messing said. "I'm sure it will be a shock to my system to have free days seven days a week. I don't know how long it's going to last, but I'm going to give it a try."
CAPTION: Marla Messing, left, with U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco and players Tiffeny Milbrett and Cindy Parlow, spent three years preparing tournament.