WPS granted first-division status

US Soccer have given conditional approval for Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) to operate as a first-division league in 2012 even though it plans to field just five clubs next year.

The move was made provided all five teams that plan to operate in 2012 agree to the undisclosed conditions provided by US Soccer.

The federation normally requires a mimimum of eight teams to confer top-level status upon a league, but gave WPS an exemption last year when it operated with only six clubs.

WPS revoked the Florida-based magicJack franchise after the season following several issues with ownership, leaving the Atlanta Beat, Philadelphia Independence, Boston Breakers, Sky Blue FC (New Jersey) and the reigning champions Western New York Flash to operate in 2012.

"We are both confident and undeterred in our mission to continue and to be the best women's professional soccer league in the world," WPS chief executive Jennifer O'Sullivan said when asking for federation approval for 2012.

Teams saw an attendance boost following the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™, in which USA lost to Japan on penalties in the final, and hope to build on that momentum next year when women's soccer could again receive a boost from the Women's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.