Western New York will join the seven other markets in WPS beginning next season.
But as of Friday, it will now have added three clubs since the inaugural season. After the first season, the Atlanta Beat and WPS Championship-bound Philadelphia Independence joined the league. And now beginning in 2011, WPS' third year, a Western New York team will join as the league's eighth club.
WPS Board of Governors approved the Joe Sahlen-owned club by vote on Friday morning, bringing the league to an even eight clubs, although six of them, including the new Western New York-based franchise, will be on the East Coast (only Chicago and 2010 regular season champion FC Gold Pride are outside of the Eastern Time Zone).
“By making adjustments to our league structure and operations over the past few months, expansion talks have heated up in several cities,” said David Halstead, co-chair of the WPS expansion committee. “We are pleased to have moved quickly on the diligence process with the (Buffalo) Flash organization and are excited to see them join WPS as an eighth franchise for the 2011 season. It gives our league an even number of teams for scheduling purposes and puts us back in expansion mode as we look ahead to 2012 and beyond.”
Club operations will be based out of the Sahlen Sports Park in Elma, N.Y., while the club's home matches will be divvied up between two locations -- the 14,000-seat Rochester Rhinos Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., and Niagra Field (a soccer-specific stadium) on the campus of Niagra University in Lewinston, N.Y.
“The league is proud to announce an eighth franchise for the 2011 WPS Season that will play in Western New York,” said incoming WPS CEO Anne-Marie Eileraas. “The Western New York region has a tremendous soccer tradition and the existing infrastructure of the (Buffalo) Flash organization will provide a great foundation for this team to flourish in WPS.”
Sahlen currently owns and operates the Buffalo Flash, a United Soccer League's W-League club that recently won that league's title.
“All of us in the Flash's organization are excited at the opportunity of moving up into WPS,” said Sahlen. “Our undefeated season in the W-League gives us a strong base and provides tremendous momentum entering the 2011 season. We are confident in WPS as a league, its franchises, and our own competitive ability. Our inclusion into WPS will help promote female competition, area participation and mutual growth for all parties involved.”
Everything will become official in October when the club is given a team name and logo. And an expansion draft for the Western New York club to pick up current WPS players will be held in late October.
For more on Women's Professional Soccer, visit Goal.com's WPS page and join Goal.com USA's Facebook fan page!