The NWSL is back in full swing. 20 of the 23 players on the World Cup Championship winning USWNT were back in action with their NWSL club teams across the nation this weekend, and you know what? The people came out to see them.
A crowd of 17,388 made its way to Bridgeview, Illinois on Sunday evening to watch a total of eight USWNT heroes, plus Aussie great Sam Kerr!, with the home side emerging with a 2-1 win.
How impressive is that? The MLS Chicago Fire is leaving Bridgeview to play at cavernous Soldier Field because no one will go watch them in the Chicago suburb.
Announced attendances at SeatGeek Stadium this week:— Bob Williams (@WilliamsBob75) July 21, 2019
Chicago Fire 7,482 (MLS)
Chicago Red Stars 17,388 (NWSL)
It gets even more impressive when you go broader:
Announced attendances this weekend:— Bob Williams (@WilliamsBob75) July 21, 2019
Chicago Red Stars 17,388 (NWSL)
Real Salt Lake 16,992 (MLS)
Colorado Rapids 15,359 (MLS)
Utah Royals 15,931 (NWSL)
Columbus Crew 15,124 (MLS)
The Houston Dash is the only team in the league that does not feature even one U.S. international, but 5,500 still came out when they defeated the Washington Spirit 2-1 at the Maryland SoccerPlex.
5,500 might not sound overly impressive but that number is listed as a sellout at the Boyd’s, Maryland home of the Spirit. Washington was missing its World Cup breakout star Rose Lavelle, but Mallory Pugh did go the full 90, although missing a last-minute penalty kick ended her homecoming on a down note.
The fans also came out in droves, attendance 15,931, to welcome home the Utah Royals three World Cup winners, plus four more from the visiting Portland Thorns, who also feature Candian superstar Christine Sinclair.
And Orlando nearly doubled their typical crowd from last season when 9,415 came out to salute their World Cup heroes as they edged SkyBlue FC in a bottom of the table battle.
Not bad considering that the Pride was without Alex Morgan, while Carli Lloyd was unavailable for Sky Blue.
Is it sustainable?
So, what did the crowds see? And will it bring them back?
The second part of that question will be answered by time but the fans that laid down their hard-earned dollars were treated to some exciting soccer played by some of the best women’s soccer players on the planet.
The highlight had to be the nutmeg masterclass put on by the Utah Royals Christen Press against Chicago. Press showed why so many have clamored for so long to see her get more PT for the nats, as she megged a helpless Elizabeth Ball before somehow sneaking her shot past USWNT backup and NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Adrianna Franch.
Franch probably should have done better, much like Utah netminder Nicole Barnhardt shouldn’t have been beaten from 25 or so yards on Christine Sinclair’s floated wonder goal.
That big crowd in Chicagoland was augmented by the ESPN2 audience that tuned in for the first game of the league’s new tv deal with the Worldwide Leader.
Once – and future?- USWNT striker Lynn Williams outdid her Courage teammate Jessica McDonald when she converted her goal-scoring chance. McDonald would spurn a good opportunity soon after, to give the visitors from North Carolina the lead.
Vanessa Di Bernardo leveled for the hosts and Australia’s brilliant Sam Kerr won it for the home team with a beautiful goal that would seem very likely to bring fans back for more.
With Morgan unavailable, Orlando rookie Marisa Viggiano proved ready for her closeup. She scored the first goal of her professional career to lead the Pride to a win over Sky Blue FC, a victory that kept the Pride from sinking to the bottom of the standings.
Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe and her Seattle Reign had the week off, so she and USWNT teammate Allie Long won’t be expected back in league play until Sunday, July 8th when the Reign host the star-studded Chicago Red Stars.
Also read: NWSL title odds
The spotlight is on the NWSL.
Let’s look at the current standings before listing the odds. The NWSL table as of 07/16/19 is:
|Chicago Red Stars||17||0|
For a refresher, read what NWSL club Women’s World Cup stars play on.
NWSL Title Odds
Here are the NWSL title odds as of 07/16/19. We’ll update the odds as the season progresses.
For those unfamiliar, read how to bet soccer.
|NC Courage +175||Portland Thorns +250||Seattle Reign +400|
|Washington Spirit +700||Utah Royals +750||Chicago Red Stars +1400|
|Chicago Red Stars +2000||Orlando Pride +10000||Sky Blue FC +10000|
You’re hooked. So now what?
Do you have to wait until the Summer Olympics for your next fix? No, in fact, you don’t. Many of the world’s greatest women play week in and week out in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the nine team domestic league in the United States.
Fresh off its newly signed TV contract with ESPN, the NWSL is ready for its big showcase.
So, if you want to see USWNT superstar Alex Morgan and Brazilian legend Marta play on the same team, check out an Orlando Pride game. Maybe you can also figure how a team with those two can sit in eight place!
But that’s just one example. Below we have compiled a handy list of what World Cup star plays where. And just a reminder: all 23 members of the World Cup winning USWNT play their club soccer in the NWSL!
What team NWSL team Women’s World Cup stars play on
- Caitlin Foord – Australia
- Hayley Raso – Australia
- Ellie Carpenter -Australia
- Andressinha – Brazil
- Christine Sinclair – Canada
- Adrianna Franch- USA
- Emily Sonnett – USA
- Lindsey Horan – USA
- Tobin Heath – USA
North Carolina Courage
- Debinha – Brazil
- Stephanie Labbé – Canada
- Abby Erceg – New Zealand
- Abby Dahlkemper – USA
- Crystal Dunn – USA
- Samantha Mewis – USA
- Jessica McDonald – USA
- Chloe Logarzo – Australia
- Amy Harrison – Australia
- Cheyna Matthews – Jamaica
- Rose Lavelle – USA
- Mallory Pugh – USA
- Lydia Williams – Australia
- Steph Catley – Australia
- Elise Kellond-Knight – Australia
- Jodie Taylor – England
- Rumi Utsugi – Japan
- Celia Jiménez Delgado – Spain
- Allie Long – USA
- Megan Rapinoe – USA
- Desiree Scott – Canada
- Katie Bowen – New Zealand
- Rachel Corsie – Scotland
- Kelley O’Hara – USA
- Becky Sauerbrunn – USA
- Christen Press – USA
Chicago Red Stars
- Sam Kerr – Australia
- Alyssa Naeher – USA
- Tierna Davidson – USA
- Morgan Brian – USA
- Julie Ertz – USA
- Clare Polkinghorne – Australia
- Allysha Chapman – Canada
- Sophie Schmidt – Canada
- Nichelle Prince – Canada
- Lindsay Agnew – Canada
- Rachel Daly – England
- Emily van Egmond – Australia
- Alanna Kennedy – Australia
- Marta – Brazil
- Camila – Brazil
- Shelina Zadorsky – Canada
- Claire Emslie – Scotland
- Ali Krieger – USA
- Alex Morgan – USA
- Ashlyn Harris – USA
Sky Blue FC
- Estelle Johnson – Cameroon
- Kailen Sheridan – Canada
- Carli Lloyd – USA
The 2019 Women’s World Cup has proven there’s a massive domestic TV audience for the sport. Many of the World Cup’s top performers (around 55 in all) play professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Broadcast giants ESPN have token note of how strong the ratings are over at FOX and decided to capitalize on it as well.
The NWSL has landed a television contract with ESPN to air 14 league matches for the remainder of the season, including both semifinals and the Championship match.
The league’s previous deal with A&E Networks, which also included a Game of the Week each Saturday on the Lifetime Network, ended abruptly in February when the broadcaster pulled out of the three-year contract one year early.
Has women’s soccer found a lasting TV audience?
The USWNT‘s run to Sunday’s World Cup Final has certainly shone a spotlight on the women’s game. Once again it raises the seemingly eternal question: why can’t the success of the women’s international game translate to the club game?
In some respects, it already has. This is the NWSL’s seventh season, two previous women’s pro leagues in the United States failed to make it past year three. Since the Women’s World Cup is setting viewing records, worldwide optimism that this might be the time is high.
The league may also be better served by throwing in its lot with the “worldwide leader in sports” ESPN, rather than A&E/ Lifetime, which was not an experienced player in the sports programming.
Better put: if anyone can sell the women’s game and support it with digital content, it’s ESPN.
“NWSL is a global leader in women’s professional soccer, with collectively the most talented players in the world. Together with the reach of ESPN’s vast network, we have the opportunity to bring more games to a broader audience across the country and world,” said NWSL President Amanda Duffy. “Even in the year leading up to the Women’s World Cup, we have continued to experience tremendous growth through the support, engagement, and visibility from our fans.”
ESPN should be better placed to make connections between the World Cup and NWSL. A total of 55 of the league’s players, including every member of the USWNT, play in the league.
“NWSL is a global leader in women’s professional soccer, with collectively the most talented players in the world. Together with the reach of ESPN’s vast network, we have the opportunity to bring more games to a broader audience across the country and world.”– NWSL President Amanda Duffy.
NWSL loaded with World Cup stars
For example, the first match to air under the new deal features the Portland Thorns versus the Orlando Magic on ESPN News on July 14. The United States could be just seven days removed from raising the World Cup. For a league desperate to capitalize on the expected wave of goodwill, the pressure figures to be enormous on the American World Cup players to line out for Orlando and Portland on the 14th.
And it is quite a list. Orlando is led by Alex Morgan, fellow USWNT players Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, and Brazilian duo of Camila and the legendary Marta.
Portland may be even more loaded with star attractions. Led by USWNT stand-outsTobin Heath and Lindsey Horan, the Thorns also feature teammates Adrianna Franch and Emily Sonnett. Joining them are Australian starter Caitlin Foord and Canada’s superstar Christine Sinclair, who ended her World Cup with 184 international goals, leaving her just shy of American legend Abby Wambach’s total of 182.
Not a bad attraction for the league and the network to kick off their new deal.
NWSL on ESPN channels and schedule
The NWSL deal features a total of 14 games to be televised by ESPN, including eight matches on ESPN News and six games on the more widely available ESPN 2. The two semifinal matches and the NWSL Championship Game on October 26, will air on ESPN 2.
Some of the league’s brightest stars have already returned to action, with Sam Kerr making a huge splash on her return, scoring a hattrick for the Chicago Red Stars in a 3-2 victory over Orlando.
Fresh off of scoring five goals for Australia, who were eliminated in the Round of 16, Kerr vaulted into the NWSL Golden Boot lead by scoring her seventh goal for the Red Stars in her last three games. Remarkable.
Kerr was the subject of rumors that she would be leaving the NWSL for an unspecified league in Europe, although Kerr refuted those rumors, saying that she is very happy in her current situation.
The league certainly hopes so.
NWSL current standings
With the victory in the first game of the second half of the NWSL’s 24 game season, the Kerr’s Red Stars sit in sixth place, with 14 points.
After 10 games, the Portland Thorns top the table with 19 points. They’re followed closely by the Washington Spirit, with 18 points. Washington is led by Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh.
Megan Rapinoe and the Seattle Reign follow with 17 points. The Utah Royals, also with 17, feature Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press, and Kelley O’Hara.
The defending champion North Carolina Courage will look forward reintegrating their returning stars Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, and Abby Dahlkemper. They look to move up the table from their current fifth-place position with 14 points.
Sixth place Chicago will be looking to climb with Kerr back, and with 14 points they sit just five from the top spot.
With 13 points seventh-place, Houston Dash is the lone team without a U.S. national team representative, although players like Keah Ohai, Sofia Huerta, and Jane Campbell were all contenders for places. Fans will remember England’s Rachel Daly, who started against the U.S. in that thrilling World Cup semifinal.
With just five points from 11 games, Orlando would seem to be out of contention, perhaps unable to overcome the World Cup absences of Morgan, Marta, and company.
Ninth and last place is the troubled Sky Blue FC, who remain winless through nine games. At least they have Carli Lloyd’s return to look forward to.
What NWSL teams do the USWNT play on?
Below is a complete list of USWNT players and the NWSL clubs that they represent. If you have enjoyed watching their exploits at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, go out and see them.
Adrianna Franch | Portland Thorns FC
Ashlyn Harris | Orlando Pride
Alyssa Naeher | Chicago Red Stars
Abby Dahlkemper | North Carolina Courage
Tierna Davidson | Chicago Red Stars
Crystal Dunn | North Carolina Courage
Ali Krieger | Orlando Pride
Kelley O’Hara | Utah Royals FC
Becky Sauerbrunn | Utah Royals FC
Emily Sonnett | Portland Thorns FC
Morgan Brian | Chicago Red Stars
Julie Ertz | Chicago Red Stars
Lindsey Horan | Portland Thorns FC
Rose Lavelle | Washington Spirit
Allie Long | Reign FC
Samantha Mewis | North Carolina Courage
Tobin Heath | Portland Thorns FC
Carli Lloyd | Sky Blue FC
Jessica McDonald | North Carolina Courage
Alex Morgan | Orlando Pride
Christen Press | Utah Royals FC
Mallory Pugh | Washington Spirit
Megan Rapinoe | Reign FC