Sports Columns

Column: The National Women’s Soccer League Is Growing and It’s Time to Jump On Board

Courtesy of Jennifer BollerThe Kansas City Current recently broke its franchise attendance record with 10,395 fans present to watch it host Angel City FC Aug. 19 at Children’s Mercy Park.

I’m a diehard Chelsea F.C. fan but hate getting up early on a Saturday morning just to watch my team fall to Manchester City. Luckily for me, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) provides exhilarating action right here in the United States that brings high-quality soccer to cities across the country. 

My hometown of Kansas City, Missouri was awarded its own NWSL team, the Kansas City Current, in 2021. Over the past year, I’ve grown to love soccer even more and believe more fans should appreciate the expanding league.

The NWSL became more prevalent after the United States women’s national soccer team (USWNT) won the FIFA World Cup in 2015 and 2019. Several years ago, people probably couldn’t name a single player on the USWNT, but, today, household names like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have emerged out of the fog. 

When I witnessed the USWNT steamroll past competition on a global stage it sparked my interest in women’s soccer, exposing me to new, world-class athletes and a remarkable product. Around 2017, the NWSL grew tremendously, increasing league membership from eight teams in 2016 to 12 teams in 2022. Markets without a Major League Soccer (MLS) team like San Diego gained access to professional soccer for the first time with their own franchise in 2021.

The NWSL is elevating women’s sports to the next level, cashing in on soccer’s wave of popularity in the United States to expand the game. The league capitalized on a $4.5 million dollar contract with CBS to stream matches, which has increased its average viewership from 190,000 to 450,000 per game, according to USA Today.

Videos of impressive goals and wild celebrations have broken into the mainstream sports world, with a viral clip of Kansas City midfielder Lo’eau Labonta’s goal celebration gaining thousands of likes on Bleacher Report. Commenters on sites like Instagram are no longer bashing women’s sports as users so often do with the WNBA, choosing instead to marvel at a players’ skills.

More important as a Current fan, the team recently unveiled its plans for its own soccer-specific stadium to be completed in 2024, the first in the U.S. specifically built for a women’s soccer team, according to ESPN. Locals are growing more excited about the stadium due to its convenient downtown location for sports junkies like me.

Now, the NWSL aims to break more barriers in sports and increase its popularity. The league offers professional women’s soccer on par, if not better, than the MLS. The league serves as a model for girls in sports, as teams often invite youth soccer teams to games to attract a new audience. Just as I glorify Patrick Mahomes, a young fan may look up to Rapinoe and wish to play professionally, too.

The NWSL’s actions are paying off, as game attendance continues to grow. Just recently, the San Diego Wave broke the league’s attendance record with 32,000 fans in attendance at Snapdragon Stadium, a facility it shares with San Diego State University, according to ESPN.

Despite the NWSL’s progress, women’s sports have been cast aside for too long despite providing quality entertainment. Most notably, NBA games average 17,760 fans per game while WNBA games only draw 6,535 fans on average, according to Deseret News. This can even be seen at Loyola basketball games, as last season the women’s team averaged 289 fans per game while the men’s team brought in 3,266 fans on average, according to Loyola Athletics. 

It’s time to give female athletes the respect that they deserve. I encourage you to give the NWSL a chance as I’ve found it to be a blast to watch.

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