NWSL Looking To Grow Fanbase, Capitalize On Women's World Cup
The USWNT won the FIFA Women's World Cup, but the "hard part remains: the weekly work of boosting" the NWSL, where "average attendance remains at a minor league level," according to Ronald Blum of the AP. The NWSL began in '13 and has a management contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has listed nearly $8.5M as "expenses attributable to the league." The USSF "pays the salaries of 22 allocated national team players, providing the NWSL a subsidy and the ability to market the top American players." MLS average attendance has "risen from the 14,000 range at the turn of the century to about 22,000; the NWSL is between 5,000 to 6,000." The NWSL has a "small" staff, as the league had three to five "full-time employees when it started and now has 13, including five in its media office." The league's goal is to "grow teams and staff." NWSL on Sunday announced a sponsorship agreement with A-B InBev, negotiated by SUM. A-B InBev joined a "relatively small group of NWSL national sponsors that includes Nike, Lifetime, Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc.'s Cutter insect repellent" and supplement brand Thorne Research. NWSL President Amanda Duffy said, "For national sponsorships, that's a process that takes time. I think right now the larger and broader opportunities from a sponsorship perspective are going to be more at a local level" (AP, 7/8).
BIGGER PICTURE: In S.F., Ann Killion wonders if MLS can "sustain a women's league." Killion: "Do its leaders have the motivation and desire? They should." MLS was "born out of the impetus to grow the game" in the U.S., and that "should not be a gender-specific mandate." The U.S. "built the women's game," now it "needs to build a women's league" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/9). In St. Louis, Benjamin Hochman writes a lot of the burden to grow women's soccer is "on us, the sudden fans, the rejuvenated fans, the longtime fans who say they love the women's soccer players, but then only actively support them every four years." Hochman: "A lot of the onus -- making this thing work, making this thing grow -- is on us" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/9). In Pittsburgh, Mark Madden wrote fans will "forget about women's soccer" until the '23 Women's World Cup, and that is a "shame." Women's soccer is "worthy of more attention" (TRIBLIVE.com, 7/8).
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: Should people expect a post-World Cup bounce for women's soccer in the U.S.? Maybe not. Four years ago, Fox Sports picked up a few post-World Cup games for the NWSL. The first match on linear TV after that '15 win was over a month after the tourney ended. That Chicago Red Stars-Portland Thorns match averaged 91,000 viewers in primetime on FS1. That year's NWSL championship on Oct. 1 also drew only 167,000 viewers on FS1 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY).