Women’s United Soccer Association (2001-2003)
Born: 2000 – WUSA founding franchise
Folded: September 15, 2003
Stadium: Spartan Stadium (16,000)
Team Colors: Dark Purple, Light Purple, Orange & Black
Founders Cup Champions: 2001
In the relatively short history and small sample size of women’s professional team sports in North America, I’d hand the Weirdest Name prize to the Bay Area CyberRays of the Women’s United Soccer Association. After their debut season, in the summer of 2001, WUSA officials came to realize it was an appallingly stupid name and they changed it … to the San Jose CyberRays.
But anyway, back to that first season. The team was actually pretty damn good under the direction of former Stanford coach Ian Sawyers. The big star was the 1999 U.S. World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, but the offense was powered by a pair of standout Brazilians: midfielder Sissi (10 assists) and forward Katia (7 goals). Australian Julie Murray was the team’s leading scorer with 9 tallies.
CyberRays advanced to the 2001 Founders Cup final and won the first WUSA championship by defeating the Atlanta Beat on penalty kicks before 21,078 fans at Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts on August 25, 2001. Murray scored in regulation and converted the final PK to earn Player of the Match honors in her final pro match before retirement.
The CyberRays were unable to recapture their first season form and missed the WUSA playoffs in 2002 and 2003. (Maybe it’s bad mojo to change your name, however slightly, immediately after winning the championship.)
The CyberRays were somewhat of an orphan club from inception. The team was jointly operated in the centrally-owned WUSA by cable TV barons Amos Hostetter and John Hendricks. Both men lived on the Eastern seaboard and were more actively engaged with the WUSA franchises they operated in their local communities – Hostetter with his Boston Breakers and Hendricks with the league’s flagship Washington Freedom franchise. According to Sports Business Journal the pair were actively seeking to unload the CyberRays to local investors in 2003, but couldn’t find any takers. One rumored scenario had the club moving to Los Angeles for the 2004 season under the management of Anschutz Entertainment Group, owners of the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. But instead the entire WUSA went out of business on September 15th, 2003, rendering the matter moot.
Women’s pro soccer returned to the Bay Area with the formation of FC Gold Pride of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2009. Like the CyberRays, F.C. Gold Pride also won a league championship. But they too were short-lived and folded after just two seasons.
San Jose CyberRays Memorabilia
San Jose CyberRays Video
60-second radio spot promoting what turned out to be the final CyberRays game ever played, August 10, 2003.