With the United States’ 2-0 win over the Netherlands on Sunday, the 2019 Women’s World Cup officially came to a close. While the players will take off their nation’s jersey for the time being, that doesn’t mean women’s soccer is nonexistent for the next four years.
The World Cup is the pinnacle for women’s soccer across the world, but it’s not the only time to watch some of the best female athletes play. Different women’s leagues have gained traction in countries around the globe in recent years. In the U.S., the National Women’s Soccer League is home to all 23 members of the World Cup winning USWNT. It also features international stars like Sam Kerr (Australia), Christine Sinclair (Canada) and Rumi Utsugi (Japan) who all took the field for their respective nations in France this past month.
In Europe, England has the FA Women’s Super League, which runs similarly to the English Premier League and features women’s sides to famous clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. France has the Division 1 Féminine, which has operated since 1974 and has arguably one of the top women’s teams in the world — Lyon. There's an endless amount of teams throughout the world brimming with talent in need of more fan support.
Four of FIFA’s top-5 teams — the U.S., Germany, France and England — all have their own league for women, but only the NWSL for the U.S. had an average attendance over 1,000 last season. That’s not OK — women playing soccer deserve more during the times they aren’t donning their country’s crest.
The women’s game is steadily improving around the world with countries like Spain growing the Primera División and the Netherlands showing promise by making the World Cup Final in only its second appearance in the tournament. With so much skill becoming apparent in so many different countries, it’s time to focus on league play and not just the World Cup and Olympics.
With the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final drawing in 57,900 people to watch it live, there’s no reason players can’t argue to have more people attend league games. Following the United States’ victory Sunday, players on the roster quickly took to social media to encourage the American fanbase to become fans of their local NWSL teams.
The day after winning her first World Cup title, U.S. midfielder Sam Mewis tweeted out to her followers with a plea for them to support the NWSL as Mewis and her national team counterparts head back to their respective clubs.
Players like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger all play together on the Orlando Pride, and if fans want a glimpse of the future for the USWNT, Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh play together for the Washington Spirit. While players like this come together to compete for the U.S. from time to time, their skill and passion are on display every week from early spring to early fall.
Just a few days prior to the World Cup Final, ESPN and the NWSL made a ground-breaking announcement. The league and the top sports network had reached a deal that would have ESPN broadcast 14 NWSL games during the remainder for the 2019 season, which is a massive step for the NWSL that was previously having games shown on Lifetime before the contract was terminated in February.
The highest-viewed soccer match in U.S. history is still the 2015 Women's World Cup, when 25.4 million people tuned in to watch the U.S. defeat Japan. Even though this year’s final drew far fewer viewers compared to 2015 with 15.6 million viewers — which is still more than the Men’s World Cup Final last year in the U.S. — that number is still impressive. More people watched the U.S. win its fourth World Cup title than four of the six games in the NBA Finals this year between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors, highlighting that people do enjoy watching women’s soccer.
It only takes a fraction of the people who tuned in to the World Cup Final deciding to watch NWSL games to help continue to grow the game on U.S. soil. Soccer is growing rapidly in the U.S. and so is the support for Major League Soccer, so it’s time to back the NWSL and help grow that along with different women’s leagues around the world.
It may take a decent amount of time before the USWNT is making equal pay to the men, but one thing fans can do right now is cheer for them at the club level. These are world class athletes who deserve support every year.
It’s time for people to recognize the players at every stage.
Contact Catie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.