St. Louis Athletica Goes Dark

Players for the WPS St. Louis Athletica were informed at a team meeting this morning that they have received their last paychecks and the team will cease operations.

In a media release, team founder Jeff Cooper laid the blame entirely on "The investors who defaulted on a contract to fund Athletica through this season and beyond".

He says that "numerous parties have spent a lot of hours...exploring what options or solutions might be available. but in the end the money just wasn't there."

THE COMPLETE STATEMENT seems to be an attempt to distance himself personally and professionally from this sad disaster, but it's a little late for that.

Maybe he's absolutely right and the whole thing falls on these other guys that nobody ever heard of who apparently owned the team but surely Cooper knows that this is a pretty solid shot - maybe a fatal one - to his future credibility as an organizer or owner or whatever it was he envisioned.

In a separate statement, WPS announced that the entire St. Louis Athletica roster "will be available as free agents to other WPS teams as of Tuesday, June 1."

I can't recall another situation where the league allowed a feeding frenzy like the one this may engender. The normal procedure would of course be a re-entry draft of some kind.

Instead, come next Tuesday the remaining seven teams will be competing head-to-head for, among others:

National team goalkeeper Hope Solo, oneof the most recognizable names in US Soccer, male or female.

Shannon Boxx, she of the 125 caps and 21 goals.

National team captain Lori Chalupny, one of the coming superstars of US Soccer (who at age 26 already has 91 caps)

The leagues' leading scorer, England star forward Eniola Aluko.

In a league where somebody had money, this kind of thing would set off a bidding war of gargantuan proportions.

One problem, unfortunately, is that WPS doesn't have a performance bond that the league can use to keep the lights on until they can come up with a solution that might save the team.

Then again, that may not be enough to save their sister (brother?) club AC St. Louis.

It became known this week that USSF did in fact dip into the $350,000 bond St. Louis United Soccer posted with them at the beginning of the season in order to keep the NASL side going, but that there isn't enough there to continue to do so for the rest of the season.

For the moment, they will continue to play as scheduled, but it's clear that time is running out.

It's also clear that Jeff Cooper, if he actually has any money, isn't willing to dip into it to keep the St. Louis ship afloat.

Interestingly, the USL announced the addition of a new club in this week - they're bringing in the already extant Barracuda FC of Antigua and Barbuda for 2011 - which expands their reach deeper into the Caribbean.

NASL has countered with the anticipated entry of the Edmonton Drillers but with St Louis in deep trouble and Crystal Palace Baltimore reported to be on very thin ice due to lack of money back at the mothership, combined with the loss of Vancouver (NASL0 Portland (USL) and Montreal in 2011 (NASL) there's only one sure thing:

The immediate future of USSF2 is impossible to predict.

As for WPS, well, nobody said this was going to be easy.