While the WUSA is banking the success of its April launch on stars such as Branch Chastain and Mia Hamm, some of the league's best stories involve its rank-and-file players, many of whom are swallowing drastic pay cuts to become professional athletes. Take Elie Foster, the sixth-round draft pick of the Boston Breakers. A former Stanford midfielder, Foster, 24, left her job as associate marketing manager at Moonlight Systems, a San Francisco-based software company. Her WUSA salary ($35,000) is barely half of what she was making. "I was completely happy with my job," says Foster, who trained for two months during her lunch hours before the draft combine last December. "But I kept telling myself, If I don't do this, I'm going to sit there watching games, oozing with jealousy and regret."
The income of midfielder Trudi Sharpsteen, the San Diego Spirit's 14th-round pick, has declined by an order of magnitude. Last October, Sharpsteen, 36, said goodbye to her job in health-care consulting for Deloitte & Touche in Los Angeles. If you compare her WUSA salary ($25,000) with her average income over the past few years, she says, laughing, "I'm missing a zero." A former U.S. team pool member in the 1980s (and the WUSA's oldest player), Sharpsteen represents the generation that preceded today's stars. "I've got a lot of people living vicariously through me," she says. "Why not take a couple years off from real work and do something I love?"
Though Foster and Sharpsteen have saved money and are welcome back at their jobs if their soccer sojourns don't work out, their pay cuts have brought on some lifestyle changes. Foster and two teammates are sharing a car and an apartment, where they keep the thermostat at 60� to save on heating costs. And Sharpsteen's Mercedes? Gone if she makes the opening-day roster.
Then again, some rewards are priceless. Last week, on the first day of training camp, Sharpsteen was pitted in fitness tests against a group that included players roughly half her age.
Trudi the Terror left them all in her dust.