So Far, So Good: NWSL Averaging Over 4,000 Fans Per Game Six Weeks In
The National Women's Soccer League six weeks into its first season has "drawn more than 101,494 total fans to 24 league games, a respectable average of 4,229 at each game," which is a notable figure as the league's survival ultimately will "come down to whether fans support the teams," according to Anne Peterson of the AP. The Portland Thorns, averaging 13,342 fans per game at Jeld-Wen Field, have "undoubtedly boosted" the league average. The other extreme is Sky Blue FC, which is "drawing the fewest fans with an average of 1,586" at Rutgers' Yurcak Field. The NWSL believes that it is "better positioned to succeed" than WUSA and WPS, the two former pro women's soccer leagues in the U.S., "because of its association with the North American soccer federations, which pay the salaries of their national team players to help keep costs down." U.S. women's national soccer team G Hope Solo and MF Megan Rapinoe "should join" Seattle Reign FC next month, which will help the team "see a boost to the average of 1,815 fans that have been attending games at the Sounders' 4,000-seat training facility just outside Seattle." Reign Owner Bill Predmore:, "We're looking at this as a very long-term project. I had no expectations that we were going to get 10,000 fans to show up on Day 1." Peterson notes the "main knock on the NWSL is that it was launched so quickly." NWSL Exec Dir Cheryl Bailey said that she "understands, but it was important to launch in a year without a world championship, so that fans could have access to elite players, and they in turn could maintain training in an off year" (AP, 5/24).
KEEPING THINGS QUIET: In Portland, Allan Brettman writes while Nike "tends to go big" when it releases new soccer uniforms, the company "just isn't bragging it up this time" with its releases of NWSL jerseys. The "lack of a signed contract between the league and Nike may account for the company's uncharacteristic silence on behalf of sport." Nike was an NWSL partner "from the get-go, as a ball emblazoned with a Swoosh appears on a Nov. 21 news release announcing the league" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/24).