Women's soccer group ready to go

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Three days ago, the Canadian Professional Soccer League was pretty sure its women's division, set to begin in 2005, wouldn't start until 2006.

And when it did begin, it would start with only six teams, not the proposed 12.

But that was three days ago.

After a league meeting, the CPSL will debut a women's division in June and it will include nine teams, not six.

London City Soccer Club general manager Harry Gauss attended the meeting and was a major proponent of the division. As expected, there was some waffling from organizations that don't want to touch the women's game.

But in the end, good sense carried the day.

There was a fear the proposed division would not happen. League officials indicated the Ontario Soccer Association had not yet recognized the proposed addition to the CPSL. Each team will be recognized by its local soccer association and the association will then go to the OSA.

A delay would have created more trouble within the league. When a plan's in place, it had better get done or it may get forgotten.

"I'm still reeling that we got nine teams," Gauss said. "I think we all recognize this project is a good project, that we do parallel the men's game and that the men's and women's game at this level have to be cultivated in the same parameters. It's not as if we began planning last year for this. The plans have been in the works for four years."

Soccer is dominated by men. While men at the highest levels recognize the value of women's soccer and have acknowledged it by promotion and through high-profile tournaments, many lower-level organizations remain firmly in prehistoric times.

Women's soccer is growing faster than men's soccer and provides a vast marketing opportunity. If you look in the stands during a women's game, you see not only men but also many young females, many of whom play soccer.

It's a demographic that spends a lot of money on the game.

London City will be managed by Ryan Gauss, soon to be 19, and coached by Tonino Commisso.

London is joined by Windsor, Oshawa, Toronto Supra, North York, Brampton, Oakville, St. Catharines and Vaughan. City will probably play in a three-team division with Windsor and Brampton as part of a 10-game schedule. They'll play Windsor and Brampton twice and every other team once. At the end of the season, a women's Canada Cup tournament will be held.

Ryan Gauss will be by far the youngest general manager in the league.

It's a homecoming of sorts for London City. They have been out of women's soccer for 10 years and therefore have no core group of players to call on.

"We've been out there scouting," Harry Gauss said. "So far, everyone has been very receptive. The whole theory is to showcase all the best London and local players."

Commisso retired this year after 13 years with London City.

"It got harder to get over the aches and pains after every game so I realized it was time to go into a different direction. I'm very excited because I'm starting with a blank book with this team. You can start from scratch and decide what you want to do and what kind of team you want. We want mostly a local team. We are checking a lot of players in London but we have eyes out in Sarnia and other areas. There's a lot of youth team champions in this area and that means a lot of talented players."

Commisso likes the women's game because it's team-focused. "Women's soccer requires a full team effort," he said.

So does a league. It seems it finally happened.


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