You’ve seen the celebrations everywhere. First, there was the homecoming in Los Angeles. Next, there was the appearance on Good Morning America. Then there was the heroes’ welcome of a parade in New York, covered everywhere on television from FOX to ESPN. Finally, there was the on-stage appearance at a Taylor Swift concert, the Kodak moment. The euphoria from the Women’s World Cup will clearly last a long time, and the party has already been extended a week. But can the party carry into the NWSL?
After the first weekend of USWNT players returning to their respective clubs, apparently, yes. The first place to turn is Houston, home of the Dash, the sister team of the MLS Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium, and second highest average attendance-getter in the still young National Women’s Soccer League. According to USA Today, the team usually averages around 4,500 fans per game without a local television deal in place. The team boasts U.S. hero Carli Lloyd, as well as teammates Megan Klingenberg, and Morgan Bryan. According to the Washington Post, their first game back from the Women’s World Cup generated a club record 13,025 fans in attendance. In case you’re curious, their MLS brother Dynamo have been averaging 20,618 fans this season (World Soccer Talk).
Other markets have been recognizing a bump in attendance as well thanks to the huge media coverage of the final World Cup game as well as the festivities after the win. The Portland Thorns, already the highest average attendance generator in the league (approximately 13,000, USA Today) with star Alex Morgan sold over 16,000 tickets to their last match. In Seattle, home team of Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Hope Solo, the Reign saw 5,778 attend their last game, a new club record. Rapinoe even threw out the first pitch at a Mariners’ game, proving that the star power of a women’s soccer player can even draw crowds to a baseball game.
New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC not only saw an increase in team interest in the stands with 3,014 fans attending this past weekend’s game compared to the average of 1,298, but also found interest from a business standpoint. According to Big Apple Soccer, NYCFC of MLS held talks with the team about a possible partnership. This is all a result of the positive press and star power that has been generated thanks to the Women’s World Cup win.
But will it last? Can the NWSL use the publicity, the media, and all the free marketing to its advantage? Women’s soccer in America has unfortunately been through an uphill battle over the past two decades (see WUSA, and WPS) But this time, there’s even more reason to have hope that the curse of “3 years then foling” will be broken. This is the first Women’s Soccer League already in existence on the heels of a Women’s World Cup victory by the U.S. This is an opportunity ripe for taking, if done right. Time will tell if women’s soccer is finally here to stay.