The cable-backed Women's United Soccer Association will cooperate rather than compete with Major League Soccer. The leagues last week sealed a pact calling for co-marketing and cross-ownership of teams.
The deal ensures that the WUSA will be designated the premiere pro women's soccer league by the U.S. Soccer Federation-an issue in doubt while MLS prepared its own application toward that end. "Together we can achieve a whole lot more than if we were working apart," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
"Nothing's left off the table," said John Hendricks, WUSA founder and Discovery Communications chairman. Hendricks and his partners, including former Continental Cablevision Chairman Amos Hostetter, Comcast, Cox and Time Warner, are seeding WUSA's eight teams with $40 million.
The deal assures MLS millions of dollars in promotional spots on cable channels WUSA's investors control, with the prospect of one of those cable investors' buying an MLS franchise when that league expands in 2002.
Comcast in Philadelphia, Time Warner in New York and Cox in Atlanta are all potential MLS franchisees. The MLS will also invest in a WUSA team in 2002.
WUSA sewed up a four-year, 88-game TV deal with TNT and CNN/SI in April, satisfying a key soccer federation requirement for certification. The prospect of promotion on those telecasts help persuade MLS to join forces with the WUSA. MLS is carried on ESPN and Telemundo.
The leagues also see potential to co-promote their teams with doubleheader events in the four markets they cohabit: San Francisco, New York, Boston and Washington.