While the future of professional women's soccer remains uncertain, the Washington Freedom continues to work toward ensuring its long-term survival.
The team will announce today the formation of the Washington Freedom Soccer Club, a structure of youth and professional-level women's programs believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
The club, which will open its offices at RFK Stadium next month, will be guided by former Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra and assistant Clyde Watson and funded by John Hendricks, the Discovery Communications chairman who founded the WUSA. The club will initially operate four year-round youth teams, a series of academies, camps and clinics and the seasonal Washington Freedom Reserves, composed of professional veterans and college and high school players.
Gabarra said he hopes the club will eventually include a stable of full-time coaches, adult amateur teams and up to 3,000 youth members, whose membership fees would help support a professional team.
Financial shortfalls caused the WUSA to suspend operations last September, less than a month after the Freedom won its first league title. WUSA leaders met last month in New York to craft a revised business plan, and investors are expected to meet next month to discuss a potential re-launch, likely for the 2006 season.
"I would find it hard to believe if there's not women's professional soccer in the next year or two," Gabarra said. "Whatever the case is, we're looking at providing a stable base, and we think this is a way to do it."
-- Dan Steinberg