Still, the city has never been able to hold on to a professional team. The St. Louis Raiders folded in 1953 and the St. Louis Stars left town in 1977. The fate of the St. Louis Steamers, the money-losing indoor team that cancelled its 2007 season, remains uncertain.

WPS is the second attempt to form a women's league. Five years ago, the Women's United Soccer Association went under due to lack of funds.

"Our challenge is to do things differently from the old WUSA," Cooper explains. "They spent money wildly and squandered an incredible chance. They spent money like NFL teams. We want to treat our team like a small business and keep an eye on the core product: winning soccer games on Saturday."

The model for the new women's league is MLS. "We think they've gotten it right," says Cooper. "They have higher attendance than the NHL. We're confident that model and our ownership group can sustain players' and administrators' salaries."

Barcellos this year will earn between $75,000 and $80,000, depending on bonuses, a relatively modest salary for a professional coach. Player salaries have not yet been determined, says Cooper.

Playing WPS soccer in St. Louis will be a full-time job. "The players have to understand that they are ambassadors for the game and for the franchise," Cooper says. "It's not just good enough to run around the field after games and give autographs and shake hands. Every minute of every day they serve as ambassadors. As players, they're inspiration, and they're aspirational as role models. I'm really excited for this to happen."

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