The Madison 56ers won't field a team in the Women's Premier Soccer League in 2015.
"It's about time to sit back and analyze what makes most sense for the women's team," according to the club's statement earlier this month announcing the decision. "We will look at all the possible options moving forward and try to provide the best soccer opportunities for the Madison-area players."
The 56ers have played in the WPSL for the past five seasons, compiling a 13-24-4 record. Madison finished 1-8-1 last summer, but coach John Reddan said the tough season didn't factor into the decision to take this year off.
"Certainly the results didn't bother me or the organization," said Reddan, a 56ers youth coach and former University of Wisconsin assistant who has coached the WPSL team all five of its seasons. "In the end, yes, everybody in the team is competing to win, but a lot of times my focus is on training the players so they're fit and ready to compete for their schools in the fall – that's another goal of ours."
Reddan pointed to the examples of defender Ali Heller (UW) and forward Kodee Williams (UW), who were regulars for the 56ers last summer and went on to play integral roles as the Badgers recorded a program record for victories in the fall.
Instead, Reddan said one of the main reasons for the hiatus in 2015 involves his schedule.
"My family, we're going to go out to Vancouver and catch the USA in the (Women's) World Cup, and it was going to be difficult at the beginning of the year for WPSL," he said. "You can always make it work – we've got great coaches – but for me to be there consistently in the first half (of the season) was going to be a challenge."
Reddan said the 56ers still will offer opportunities for women to play and train this summer. The club will again field teams in the Wisconsin Soccer Leagues Women's Premier League, and Reddan said he would offer to train players two or three times per week from mid-June through July, leading into fall camps for college teams.
Looking forward, Reddan said he has two goals for the 56ers women's program.
The first is to have another coach actively involved with the team. With Reddan's responsibilities to his youth teams, including training and matches, tryouts and the State Cup, getting prepared for the WPSL season each spring is a challenge.
"That last month and a half of club ball while you're right in the middle of trying to establish everything for the women's team," Reddan said. "I think working with another person potentially would help out quite a bit."
His other priority will be to consistently build a larger roster. Last season, the 56ers had 16 to 18 players on their roster for most of the season – but they frequently had only 12 players at training and 13 or 14 for matches.
"So I think it has the potential to work out well for us to restablish ourselves a little bit, see if we can get back to a larger roster," Reddan said. "We need to re-evaluate how to bolster that, to make sure that going into each weekend we've got bodies working for us. In a couple of those games, it's summer, you're on turf, it's 95 degrees, it's just challenging late in the game – (the other team is) able to bring in five new players and we're not.
"I think you've got to look at 22 or so, between 20 and 22, because inevitably, you've got the wedding, the sister's graduation, the family trip they've been planning, all that stuff comes in sooner or later. And then injuries, of course – that became an issue, too (last season). We had two or three kids get hurt ... and just couldn't play.
"The flip side of that, of course, is the kids that played for me, they played a lot."
The 56ers entered the WPSL along with FC Milwaukee Nationals in 2010, following the Middleton-based MYSC Lady Blues, who played in the league in 2008. The state's only other team in either of the country's top two women's amateur leagues was the Madison Freeze, who played in the USL W-League in 1996 and '97.
The 56ers had winning records in 2012 and '13, posting 3-2-0 and 5-3-0 records, respecitvely.
"Last year was a down year," Reddan said, "but overall, I think we've done a good job and I just look forward to getting back at it."
The WPSL Midwest Division will consist of 12 teams this season, with teams playing 10 league matches apiece in a single table. The Michigan Lions are the only newcomer to the division, joining the Chicago Red Stars Reserves, Cincinnati Lady Saints, Columbus Eagles, Des Moines Menace, FC Indiana, FC Pride, Fire and Ice SC, KC Courage, Minnesota Twin Stars, Motor City FC and the Quad City Eagles.
|2010||2-5-1||4th Midwest - North|
|2011||2-6-2||5th Midwest - North|
|2014||1-8-1||6th Midwest - Central|
Editor's note: This article has been edited from its original version to correct information regarding state teams in the WPSL and W-League.