The Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), the 5-team American league that just finished out its 3rd season, cancelled its 2012 season today while holding out hope for a return in 2013 or beyond. The WPS represents the second women's soccer league to fail in the United states in the past decade, following the demise of WUSA in 2003.
WPS's announcement follows one day after CONCACAF finished up its women's soccer Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver, BC that attracted record crowds that exceeded 25,000 fans for the U.S.-Canada final. Other international women's soccer matches have also demonstrated an impressively broad level of popularity. Last summer's Women's World Cup final, for example, attracted a television rating of 8.6, a figure that exceeded the average rating for games in the 2010 World Series between Texas and San Francisco.
Clearly a market exists for women's soccer, but attracting fans outside of international events like the Olympics and the World Cup remains an elusive goal. I don't really have a brilliant economic point to make here other than to note that the saga of women's soccer in the U.S. serves as a testament to the impressive ability of existing leagues in other sports to regularly attract large crowds, even for those meaningless late season games when both teams are out of the hunt, and without the pageantry and national fervor that women's soccer has managed to capture on occasion.