NWSL's Early Returns Helping Determine Outlook Of League
The NWSL “has a better idea of where it stands and what challenges lie ahead” eleven games into its existence, according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. National TV “has been arranged, but live online viewing has been choppy.” Average attendance “is 4,595, ranging from 1,255 at the Chicago Red Stars’ debut in Lisle, Ill., to 16,479 for the Portland Thorns’ home opener" at Jeld-Wen Field. The previous women's pro league -- the WPS -- “averaged 3,930 from 2009 to 2011 and had much higher overhead.” Washington Spirit Owner Bill Lynch said, “We could not have asked for a better first three games.” Lynch has “targeted an average of 3,000 for financial sustainability.” While subsidies have “eased financial burden, Lynch and the other NWSL owners recognize the need to gain exposure and grow the business.” Every team “except Chicago has a uniform sponsor, most notably Ocean Spray with the Boston Breakers.” But the Spirit has “not sold its rights and is displaying the logo of Lynch’s company, ProChain Solutions, on the jerseys.” Although cost constraints “have prevented the NWSL from signing elite foreigners, like its failed predecessors did, U.S. Coach Tom Sermanni is encouraged by the play” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/4).
ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers noted Reign FC “held its first home game Saturday against FC Kansas City,” and the team “got decent support, drawing 2,618 fans" at Starfire Stadium in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, Wash. The drawing was a “somewhat reserved crowd, at least for a community renowned nationally for its soccer fandom, ranked sixth-largest out of eight home openers" for the NWSL (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/5). A SEATTLE TIMES editorial before the home opener stated the community “ought to give Seattle Reign FC a big welcome” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/4).
SPIRIT RALLY: The WASHINGTON POST’s Goff wrote a Spirit match “offers a fun atmosphere in a snug suburban stadium and features players who can’t stop signing autographs and interacting with their young fans.” The public has “responded, turning out in sizable numbers and witnessing competitive games.” The team on Saturday played the Thorns “before 5,011 at Maryland SoccerPlex,” and the crowd “was about 500 more than the normal capacity.” The Spirit is “averaging 4,230 after three home dates, well beyond the ownership’s goal of 3,000” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/5).