Shortly after Sunil Gulati, President of the USSF, announced the eight cities who would receive franchises in the new Womens Professional League, we spoke to the owner of the winning Seattle franchise Bill Predmore.
Predmore revealed the 22 game schedule which will include three games against each side plus an extra one against your nearest rivals, in this case Portland.
He also spoke of the need for co-existence with the Sounders Women, a little about his personal passion for football and revealed that they are nearly settled on a name for the club
Prost Amerika: You’re probably less surprised by the news than the rest of us, but please describe your reaction to finally seeing the news in the public domain.
Bill Predmore: I was in Chicago yesterday for the meeting with the team owners and the US Soccer Federation, so it wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was obviously very pleased to get the news out there. I think the fans have been waiting a long time for this announcement. It has been teased now for several months and I think people had their fingers crossed for a very long time.
Ultimately I’m very happy that the various groups involved have been able to work out the details and put together a plan that is sustainable and has a significant likelihood of success.
Prost Amerika: For those people to whom this news is a bit of a surprise can you give us some background on yourself and tell them who is Bill Predmore?
Bill Predmore: I started a digital marketing firm POP about 16 years ago. We do a range of digital marketing work for clients like Target, Nintendo and Nike. We’ve been involved as well doing some marketing work for Major League Soccer and for the Sounders here in Seattle.
Prost Amerika: Where does your interest in soccer comes from?
Bill Predmore: I’ve been a passionate fan of the sport. My wife played D1 ball down at Oregon State. I’d say we are a family that spends a lot of time either attending matches or watching them on television. For a long time I’d had an interest in doing something around the women’s game and just been waiting for that right opportunity to come up and this turned out to be it. So here we are.
Prost Amerika: At the end of today’s press release, there’s a list of what’s to come; the venues, the head coach the name and so on. Can you give us some idea of the timing?
Bill Predmore: We’ve got to have a team here on the pitch in early March so we have to move very quickly. I believe venue, team name, identity that’s going to be an early December conversation. Ticket sales will be pre Christmas. That’s what we’re shooting for there.
The coaching search is starting right now. I would love to get that done in December but I think more realistically, we’re talking about very early January. We’d like to have that in place prior to the allocation process. That would give us the opportunity to have the coach shape the signing of the players outside the allocation process. We will move very very quickly on that so I think that at this point now that we have confirmation from US Soccer that we are indeed the club in Seattle that we’’ll be able to be much more aggressive than we have been able to be in the past.
Prost Amerika: Have there been any applications for the Head Coach job yet?
Bill Predmore: I’ve seen a few informal things but we’ve essentially told people to put it on hold until we had this confirmation from US Soccer. I hated to get people spun up until I knew that this was going to happen; and now that we do I’m certainly hopeful that we’ll be reaching out to certain individuals that could be interesting candidates. We’ll see if we get a good response.
Prost Amerika: There’s obviously the 800lb gorilla in the room which has been the instant fan reaction to the co-existence of two womens sides in the same city. Do you see that as sustainable in the long term?
Bill Predmore: Yeah. I do. Sounders women did a great job last year putting a product on the field that fans were clearly willing to support. That gives me a lot of hope that there is that general fan support out there for multiple clubs. I would like to find a way for both Sounders women and our club to co-exist. I don’t think it needs to be a competitive situation per se and I think we could do a lot to help each other out. I’m hopeful the ownership of the Sounders will have a similar perspective.
Prost Amerika: Will you be talking to US Soccer about not scheduling your games at the same time as theirs?
Bill Predmore: I think we’ve got a couple of challenges that we need to work around. Obviously the Sounders men are my bigger concern. We would expect a significant cross over between Sounders men fans and our fans, so we’d like to not stack those games, either the same day or the same time.
Where we’re at right now, we’ve probably got the flexibility to accomplish much of that. I think we will do something similar with the Sounders Women. We don’t want to step on their toes and hopefully they don’t want to step on ours. I suspect we can reach some accommodation where hopefully there’s three times a week where people get to go out and watch a match. If you’re a soccer fan, I think that would be an enticing proposition.
Prost Amerika: One of the things that came up in Sunil Gulati’s teleconference today was that there was going to be some attempt to match players with the clubs or the cities that they want to play in. Will bringing back some of the internationals that played here in Seattle last year be a priority?
Bill Predmore: The Sounders women last year put together a once in a lifetime roster particularly for the W League.
I think that concentration of talent at any one club is not repeatable; that the US Soccer Federation will not allow that to happen, that they want to at least start with a level playing field and to disperse the national team players in an even fashion, or as in an even fashion as possible across eight clubs. So you’ve got three US national team players on each. Who those players are and what that mix is, US Soccer Federation will influence that obviously. Our club, our coach is going to have a say in that. And of course the players are going to have a say. I think there are going to be clubs that are more compelling than others for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the coach. Maybe it’s geography. But the players are definitely going to have a say in that. It’s on us to create a situation that the best players want to come and play for us. If we do, I’m confident that we’ll be able to put together a truly great squad.
Prost Amerika: Moving on to one of the other big decisions you have to make, which is choosing a name for the club. There’s a Cascadia tradition to use some element of local topography in team names, will that be a tradition you might want to follow?
Bill Predmore: I’m not going to comment on the name or the identity right now. But I grew up in Seattle so I am very familiar with the various themes and their connection to the community here so I’ll say .. what we’re talking about is something I think ultimately the fans will be pleased and be excited about.
Prost Amerika: So you’ve made the decision?
Bill Predmore: I would say that we are very close to something final which I think we will be able to get out there pretty quickly with the name.
Prost Amerika: And the logo will come out with that?
Bill Predmore: Yes, the name and the logo will be released together.
Prost Amerika: The Portland franchise are not commenting on whether their team will be named officially the Portland Timbers or not, but it will still be a Portland v Seattle match. To what extent will you be attempting to maximize that rivalry and replicate the Cascadia Cup fervour of Major League Soccer.
Bill Predmore: I think it’s important in general that the women’s league have their own set of traditions. I certainly love what MLS has done with the Cascadia Cup. Can I see something like that happening? Yes, and I would be super supportive of it. What we do know is already going to take place is that the structure of the game is going to be 22 games, so it’ll be three games with each of the clubs and a fourth game with your closest rival. I think we can say with certainty that is going to be Portland. It sets itself up nicely for some cup type of experience that will add a little extra excitement to those matches.