Fri, Jun 28 2013 03:31 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The state of women’s soccer in the United States seems to be in a constant ebb and flow. Locally, the San Diego Gauchos Women kick-started the game at the professional level in 2005 by competing in the W-League, then gave way to the San Diego Sunwaves.
The team played games at Sweetwater High School (its birthplace), Steele Canyon High School, Otay Ranch High School, Southwestern College, Balboa Stadium and USD’s Torero Stadium. The team once attracted 2,000 fans to a home game.
But playing in a regional national league (road games took the team as far north at Vancouver, Canada) proved cost prohibitive after a three-year run.
The team’s marquee player was goalkeeper Sophia Perez, a Bonita Vista High School and SDSU alumna.
The WUSA and its successor league, Women’s Professional Soccer, each lasted three years. The San Diego Spirit, which played its games at Torero Stadium prior to the formation of the Gauchos, was among the league’s best-drawing teams. However, the league could not sustain itself with an unrealistic business model of attempting to exist as a self-styled major league circuit on a minor league revenue stream.
The National Women’s Soccer League, which is subsidized by the U.S. Soccer Federation, Canadian Soccer Association and the Mexican Football Federation, is the latest attempt to serve fans at the top of the soccer pyramid. The NWSL has eight teams, including four survivors from WPS.
Through 22 matches, the league had averaged 3,998 fans — with a high of 16,479 to a low of 688.
Abby Wambach of the Western New York Flash, the world’s all-time international goal scorer, led the league with seven goals in eight games.
The NWSL will hold its championship game Aug. 31.
Through all of this change, one league has remained constant: the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
The WPSL ranks second on the U.S. Soccer pyramid. The league includes 70 teams spread across 11 divisions this season.
The San Diego SeaLions were one of six founding franchises in 1997 and have enjoyed quite a bit of success during their long stay, winning the 1999 U.S. National Cup and the 2000 WPSL championship.
The SeaLions are one of the oldest women’s soccer teams still operating, having been founded in 1988. The club is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season.
The SeaLions are coached by former BVHS (and U.S. national team) standout Jen Lalor Nielsen. Among the players on the team’s roster is another BVHS alum: midfielder Elie Magracia.
Magracia, a 2012 USD graduate, helped the Toreros to four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. She was a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection, freshman All-American pick and All-West Region honoree as a senior.
Magracia tallied 22 goals and 13 assists to lead the Barons in scoring during her senior season in 2007-08.
Nielsen and Magracia will help launch a new era in SeaLions history when the team plays its final two regular season home matches of the season July 6 and 14 at Mater Dei Catholic High School.
Drum roll, high-level women’s soccer is coming back to the South Bay.
“We are really looking forward to playing at Mater Dei,” SeaLions General Manager Amie Becker said. “The school has a gorgeous campus and state-of-the-art facilities, but beyond that we are excited about the new relationships we will build with the local communities and businesses in the area.”
The SeaLions look to entertain fans who come to watch the games after starting the season with a 5-0-1 record (3-0-1 in Pacific-South division matches). The SeaLions blanked visiting FC Golden State, 3-0, in an inter-league friendly game played last Saturday at Cathedral Catholic High School.
The SeaLions will play their final game at CCHS on Sunday at 2 p.m. when they will put on an intra-squad charity match for Chisomo Idea to aid the organization’s various charitable projects in Malawi.
The SeaLions will host the legendary California Storm, winners of three WPSL titles, in an inter-division contest July 6 at 7:30 p.m.
The SeaLions will host L.A. Premier on July 14 at 2 p.m.
The WPSL Pacific Conference playoffs will take place July 20-21 in Northern California. The league will hold its championship tournament the following weekend at a site to be announced.
The team’s website is www.sealionsoccer.com.
© 2009 The Star-News