The NBA Finals have come to an end, cialis the beloved Blackhawks have brought the Stanley Cup home to Chicago, case there’s still a few weeks before the Bears start training camp, generic and although the Cubs are starting to get their act together, the Sox are still struggling, so what team should you be focusing on? I say it’s the Red Stars!
They say the third time’s a charm. Well, hopefully that’ll hold true in the world of women’s soccer with the most recent attempt at starting a professional league. The creation of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) comes after the collapse of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2011 and Women’s United Soccer Association in 2003.
With the start of the NWSL, Chicago gained a new team to cheer for, the Red Stars. Alyse LaHue, Red Stars General Manager, has been instrumental in their success thus far. She sat down with me to talk about the team and what fans can expect at a Red Stars game.
LK: Please just start by giving us a little background about the Red Stars.
AL: The Red Stars were actually part of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). We competed in 2009 and 2010 and that league ended up folding after the 2011 season. For the past two years we’ve been playing semi-professionally and we’ve been pretty successful, we went to the WPSL Championship in 2011 and last year we went to the WPSL Elite Championship. Unfortunately we fell in both of those games in overtime but we also won the National Cup last year. We’ve had a pretty successful run but we’ve always had an eye on returning to the pro game, we were just waiting for the right situation. Arnim Whisler, sole owner of the Red Stars, has been really integral in getting this version of a women’s league back up and running.
LK: What’s the difference between this league and the past ones?
AL: The U.S. Soccer Federation has come on board and having their support and help has been a major component for this new league. They actually manage the front office for the league so that’s a major component. Another important component is that they fund all National Team players to actually compete in this league and they were able to bring on the Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican Soccer Federation as well. Each team has 7 National Team players from the U.S., Canada and Mexico that are fully paid for.
LK: Why did the team choose to play at the Benedictine University field in Lisle, IL rather than in Chicago, IL?
AL: We had a lot of things on our wish-list that we wanted to check off and one of them was wanting to serve alcohol and unfortunately a lot of the good fields in the city don’t serve alcohol and we wanted to be sure we were welcoming to a wide variety of fans. It also had the right price and seating amount, so while we wish we were a little closer to the city, it makes sense for us to be in the Village of Lisle.They’ve been amazing partners to us.
LK: What has the response been like so far?
AL: It’s been great! We got a little whammed by injuries early on but still very competitive and we think we are going to continue to improve on the field. As far as game days go, they’ve also been great. Having been semi-pro for several years people thought we disappeared altogether, so working on brand awareness has been huge for us. This league was actually just announced at Thanksgiving of last year. Everything has been in turbo mode, so it’s amazing that we have the league up and running. We know we have a long way to go but I’m just really glad we’re playing this year. I’m also really proud of what U.S. Soccer has done and what all of the teams and players have done in getting the word out there and being active members of the community.
LK: What sort of an experience can a fan expect at a Red Stars game?
AL: One, our games are very affordable. We don’t charge for parking, we serve alcohol and have good concessions with healthy options and it’s really cheap compared to other options. You can get chicken fingers for $3.00, so in terms of having a family day out, it’s extremely affordable. I think the thing that appeals most to people is the accessibility of our players; after every game the entire team signs autographs and it’s not even part of a special package.
We also have field-side seating, which is another element that is new and you can’t get at a lot of other soccer events. We want to make sure our players are accessible and we are certainly promoting that. Whenever people put together a group of people to come we can do meet and greets as well, pending how many groups are at a game.
LK: What key points would you like people to know about the Red Stars and the league that they might not be aware of?
AL: Something that I think people need to know is that in a week in and a week out basis, between our team and the visiting team, you’re going to see all of the top American players at one point or another. Alex Morgan has already played in Chicago multiple times. And of course the accessibility and affordability, not to mention that fans can bring their own alcohol and grills to tailgate before the games. It’s not going to break the bank and you’re still going to have an exciting time!
The Red Stars are currently sitting in 6th place out of 8 NWSL teams with 4 wins, 6 losses and 3 draws. Their next home game is on July 14th at 3:00 pm against the FC Kansas City. To learn more about the team visit their website.
With only four home games remaining, this is an excellent time to get out and support the women of the Red Stars and the National Women’s Soccer League. As female fans, it’s our duty to support our sisters who compete each day in a culture dominated by men’s professional sports. Grab your friends and family and head out to Lisle for one of the best kept sporting secrets in Chicago.