In the red: A history of dominant women's teams that failed off the field
The team wore plain, black and white kits with only the “magicJack” name emblazoned across the chest, and it featured, like so many on this list, some of the best players in the world. Players flocked there at the start of 2011 as Borislow paid exponentially more than any other team, with stories of additional kickbacks like luxury apartments and vehicles among the perks.
The team featured Abby Wambach, Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Rampone, Boxx, Becky Sauerbrunn and rookie of the year Christen Press. It was a World Cup year, and with stars getting preferential treatment over other players, who Borislow degraded by publicly calling amateurs, the team became a fiasco.
Borislow, who would often take to Twitter (with the old ‘egg’ avatar) and the comments sections of blogs, was repeatedly fined for his failure to comply with league standards and his detrimental comments. By midseason, some players formally filed a grievance, and the battle became both personal and legal, with only a sliver of harrowing stories making it to the public. To this day, most players from that team won’t discuss what happened.
Borislow wanted credit for saving the league, which he wouldn’t have even been in a position to do had Joe Sahlen not already committed the Flash to WPS. The legal battle to remove him from the league was the final nail in a coffin already built, and WPS officially close shop before ever playing a 2012 season.
Western New York was lightning in a bottle, a wonderful paradox of the state of women’s soccer. By the end of 2012, it had won three straight championships … in three different leagues. It would play in (and lose) a fourth final in a fourth different league in 2013, the first year of the NWSL.
The Flash peaked in 2011, when a three-headed monster of Marta, Christine Sinclair and then-rookie Alex Morgan tore through WPS en route to a championship. Rochester, New York, saw the most visible World Cup bump of any market, its stars returning from a heartbreaking extra-time loss to Japan in the final to a sold-out Sahlen’s stadium just three days later.
Western New York installed temporary bleachers and sold as many seats as the fire marshal would allow, and the pregame welcome party for the U.S. internationals for that magicJack-Flash game had a Hollywood feel that sparked the U.S. women’s national team’s modern era of popularity.
But while that popularity surged for the national team, WPS went under, and the buzz in Rochester couldn’t be sustained. When Wambach was allocated to her hometown team at the start of NWSL in 2013, the star somewhat begrudgingly admitted it was best for the league. Crowds continued to shrink, and player unrest set in during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
By 2016, NWSL’s push to solidify its markets and ownership groups became real, and Steven Malik’s declaration in December 2016 that he wanted to add a women’s side to his North Carolina FC NASL team opened the door for Sahlen and the Flash.
A young Western New York won an unlikely title at the end of the 2016 NWSL season. But come January, the team was the North Carolina Courage.