One is winding down and facing more change, one is starting up a second season with less buzz and more questions than year one. Thus are the challenges WPS and the UFL face as start-up leagues in a troubled economy when only the largest entities can survive. WPS will announce Monday that commissioner Tonya Antonucci will resign after two years amidst huge losses and folding teams and an inability to keep some key franchises alive. Despite all the buzz of World Cup and success MLS has had, WPS has failed to grasp the interest of major sponsor dollars and television, the two basic key pieces for success of any national brand. It remains a niche, strong at the grassroots, but unable to survive without the large dollars needed for event support in the long professional sports season. The UFL will face similar challenges, even with some national TV coverage. Markets have moved, staff have departed, seasons adjusted, but the league continues to try to hold on with the hope that an NFL strike or lockout will help them grow their brand. Unlike WPS, which can compliment MLS with a women's game, the UFL is seeking to draw fans who are football fans in non-NFL markets for the most part.
However the difference is that football fans already enjoy the NFL on many nights and have more than enough complimentary programming during the fall to sate their appetitte. Now in the spring, where the USFL had some success, maybe there is an option. However to cut into sponsor and fan interest when they are already getting their fix has always been a tough challenge. The issue is not if the leagues are providing quality events. The issue is are they providing necessary events for fans in times that are tougher than ever for the discreationary dollar. It would be great to see these leagues and other niche sports survive and thrive. The jobs are needed as is the economic stimulus. This is a business though, and the market will determine financial success. If the answers don’t play out for the right dollars, WPS and the UFL will find themselves like the AVP and others recently, who had god ideas and great intentions at the wrong time. Time will tell, as will financial success.