The Chicago Red Stars refuse to fade away.
Left for dead over the winter when they couldn't find enough investors to remain in Women's Professional Soccer for the upcoming season, the Red Stars revived to join the semipro Women's Premier Soccer League. They will play their home games at Benedictine University in Lisle instead of Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
"The main thing was the owners wanted to keep the Red Stars alive," one of those owners, Arnim Whisler, said before the team's first practice Wednesday. "They wanted to make sure that we continue to provide something for the father-daughter-young girl fan base, to continue to see their stars and their heroes. This was the best fit between affordability, quality of play and schedule availability."
As this summer's Women's World Cup in Germany approaches, this group of current and former college stars hopes to forge its own path to success. If it were easy, the team would still be in WPS, and WPS wouldn't be teetering on the edge of extinction.
It's important to build a soccer fan base, not only for the women's game but for the men's game as well. It matters for the future of the national teams that they have vibrant domestic leagues for their players to compete in. They can build success together more easily than they can apart.
Whisler sees a future for his club.
"As soon as we relaunched we got a flood of new ticket orders, and we got a number of (youth) clubs that are trying to bring their teams back in," Whisler said. "I think it's very important to the community, and it's certainly very important to us.
"All of the owners, the reason we got into this was not as a money-making venture. It was to provide role models for our daughters, to see these extremely talented athletes play on to a higher level. So we're going to keep it going."
Defender Elise Weber is one of the role models she wishes she had as a kid in Elk Grove.
"Growing up that's one of the things that you would love to have," Weber said. "There's so many men's sports teams, but there's never the women's team for the girls to look up to, and I know I never had that really."
They'll start with five home games this summer, though only two are scheduled so far, and followers of local high school soccer will recognize some of the players. These are some of the best players the Chicago area has ever produced.
So can the Red Stars keep it going? Or are they just putting off the inevitable?
"It's too early to say," Whisler said. "It's really up to our fans. So far they're telling us and showing us that they want us to be around, but we have to watch WPS. There are many things going on with WPS. And WPSL has some big plans as well. I think the outlook is very good, but we do have to watch and make sure the season is a success."
Local players on Red Stars roster
Vanessa DiBernardo, Naperville
Julie Ewing, Batavia
Jamie Forbes, St. Charles
Kecia Morway, Lake Villa
Bri Rodriguez, Aurora
Carly Samp, Barrington
Jackie Santacaterina, Geneva
Sammy Scofield, Geneva
Taylor Vancil, South Elgin
Elise Weber, Elk Grove Village
Michele Weissenhofer, Naperville