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NWSL strikes audience breakthrough

NWSL team Portland Thorns FC currently sits in first place in the league. (Photo courtesy of Portland Thorns FC.)

Currently in its seventh season, the NWSL has outlasted every other women’s professional sports league in North America and is growing exponentially. This summer has been a pivotal time for the league, as they have seen an upswing in both match attendance and broadcasting. 

Earlier in the year the league announced a nationwide deal with ESPN to broadcast their games, and now they have made a new exclusive multi-year deal for worldwide broadcasting rights. 

“Expanding the network’s distribution internationally will continue to elevate the profile and visibility of the NWSL around the world,” said NWSL President Amanda Duffy. 

This is a significant step in the right direction as women’s sports continues to fight for equality in broadcasting. 

Washington Spirit Forward Mallory Pugh says, “It has been frustrating that sometimes you turn on ESPN, and there’s like cornhole or cricket. And I’m like, ‘Why?’ I want people to see what we can do and just how great each and every one of these players is. Everyone is saying how competitive and how great this thing is, and I think people just need to see that. And now that we have the option and they actually can do that, it’s absolutely amazing.”

This deal is another sign of progression and tremendous growth for the league, which follows the success of the World Cup, where the United States finished on top for the second time in a row. 

League-wide attendance saw a 70 per cent increase from games before the World Cup to those after the tournament, with six teams having sellout crowds. Both Sky Blue FC and the Red Stars set their own attendance records this season, seating 9,415 and 17,388 fans respectively. On Aug. 11th the Portland Thorns set the overall attendance record with a whopping 25,218 at Providence Park where they defeated North Carolina Courage 2-1.

The NWSL regular season will conclude on Oct. 12th, and currently the Portland Thorns (featuring stars Tobin Heath and Canada’s Christine Sinclair) hold the lead with 36 points and a W-L-T of 10-3-6.

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