Personal best: WPS, Bay Area soccer thrust into spotlight

Despite struggling in the first inaugural season of the Women’s Professional Soccer league, the Bay Area’s FC Gold Pride, led by four-time FIFA Player of the Year Marta, clinched the 2010 WPS regular-season title and will host the championship game on Sept. 26 at Cal State East Bay, in Hayward.

For league commissioner Tonya Antonucci, a Stanford alum, having the world’s elite women soccer players competing in the Bay Area is a thrilling opportunity for not just soccer fans, but all sports fans.

“I think soccer is a big part of the cultural fabric in the Bay Area,” Antonucci said. “The Bay Area lives to get behind teams that are great and that are winning and they’ve got a winning team to support.”

The WPS headquarters are based in San Francisco. Antonucci is a Bay Area resident who has loved the area ever since she starred as a midfielder on the Stanford soccer team. Her passion and talent for the game earned her a roster spot on the 1991 U.S. women’s national team.

Although women’s soccer’s previous attempt for a professional soccer league in the United States, the Women’s United Soccer Association, failed after three seasons — in part due to costly and unsuccessful advertising campaigns, among other issues — Antonucci has faith that the WPS will succeed and continue to develop.

“Our league is made up of 20 countries represented,” Antonucci said. “On any given day, you’ve got about 16-18 players on the field who are also playing for their national teams, so we really have the top athletes and that makes every single team in the WPS competitive with each other.”

Antonucci was named WPS commissioner in 2007, and prior to her current position, she successfully launched Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Fantasy Sports. As general manager of Yahoo’s partnership with FIFA, she managed the global websites for the 2002 FIFA men’s and 2003 women’s World Cups.

Other past experiences of Antonucci’s include working as a product manager at the software company Starwave. Her greatest love has always been soccer and she helped both the Stanford and Santa Clara women’s soccer programs as an assistant coach. 

Antonucci has learned all of the intricate details of running a business, and specifically a business startup through her past experiences. She is determined to make the WPS a success.

“We really need to get the fans out to enjoy and support this championship and I think if we can do that, it really demonstrates what I know exists, which is a really passionate engaged soccer fan base,” Antonucci said. “Lets get them out and pack the house at Cal State [East Bay] for the championship.”

 

WPS championship

WHO: The last two Women’s Professional Soccer teams left standing

WHEN: Sept. 26, 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Pioneer Stadium, Cal State East Bay, Hayward

TICKETS: (510) 314-8306 or visit www.fcgoldpride.com

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