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Battle of The Sexes


Two themes have dominated the U.S. distaff soccer landscape since
last summer: the effort to start a topflight women's pro league
by 2001 and the tension between men's and women's soccer. The
latest development combines both. By May 10 two applications are
expected to be filed with the U.S. Soccer Federation for a
women's pro league. Only one will be sanctioned, and if the 1999
World Cup champions have their way, it won't be the one proposed
by Major League Soccer.

On April 17 all 20 members of the team that won the Cup announced
that they'll play only for the Women's United Soccer Association
(WUSA). "For MLS to take on another venture isn't in its interest
right now," says U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy. "We only get one
chance to do this right, and WUSA is focused entirely on the
women's game."

Each side has advantages. The proposal for WUSA (whose investors
include Time Warner Cable, a division of SI's parent company)
includes $40 million in financing, eight host cities and a
four-year, $3 million TV contract with Turner Sports and CNN/SI.
MLS hasn't detailed its plan but brings four years of experience
in pro soccer, wealthy investors and existing TV deals with ABC,
ESPN and local Fox outlets.

Ideally, MLS would run the men's and women's leagues and use its
leverage to construct much needed soccer-specific stadiums. In
reality MLS has reportedly lost more than $100 million on the
men's game, while WUSA brings new money and new faces to the
sport, such as primary backer John Hendricks, CEO of Discovery
Communications. When U.S. Soccer makes its decision this summer,
WUSA should get the bid. Once that's settled, maybe the men and
women will begin working together to promote their sport.

--Grant Wahl