- The Women's Professional Soccer league has been suspended for 2012
- The WPS, which began in 2009, is involved in an expensive legal dispute
- Legal proceedings revolve around the termination of the magicJack franchise
- Stars such as U.S. duo Hope Solo and Abby Wambach and Brazil's Marta play in WPS
Top-level female football in the U.S. was dealt a severe blow on Monday when it was announced the 2012 Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) season had been suspended.
The league only began in 2009, but an expensive legal dispute with a former franchise owner has driven the board of governors to halt the five-team competition.
The announcement came just 24 hours after the U.S. national women's team had beaten Canada 4-0 to win the North and Central American qualifying tournament for the 2012 Olympics Games in London.
"We are proud of what the league has accomplished in the first three seasons," Thomas Hofstetter, owner of the New Jersey-based Sky Blues FC, who won the 2009 WPS playoffs, said in a statement.
"But we do recognize the necessity to resolve our existing legal and operational issues so that we can continue to support and grow WPS the right way.
"This was a very difficult decision, but one we as owners feel is the best business decision for the league at this time."
The legal dispute which has forced the league to take this step is with Dan Borislow, the owner of the Florida-based magicJack franchise.
Borislow brought the Washington Freedom team in 2011 before relocating it to Boca Raton and renaming the franchise after his communications company.
He repeatedly clashed with WPS over a number of issues, including the size of the magicJack's stadium and reportedly failing to pay player wages.
WPS took the decision on October 27 2011 to "terminate" the franchise, which had U.S. national team stars such as goalkeeper Hope Solo and striker Abby Wambach on its roster.
Borislow challenged the termination, with the league forced to suspend the 2012 season "in order to address the legal issues head-on before moving forward with competition."
"Those that take part in our league -- players, partners and fans -- deserve the best," said WPS CEO Jennifer O'Sullivan. "That is what we are taking the time to ensure we deliver when we resume play in 2013 and beyond.
"With our supporters and athletes in mind, we are committed to complete the hard work necessary to resume play in 2013 and reestablish WPS as the premiere women's professional soccer league in the world."
The 2011 WPS playoffs were won by the Western New York Flash, who were led by Brazil's five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta.