Its been a non-stop party since Megan Rapinoe and Co won the World Cup. But now the task is to see if they can grow the domestic league
Its been a non-stop party for the US womens national team since they won the World Cup on Sunday. The champagne started flowing in the locker room immediately after the US beat the Netherlands and, from the charter flight home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, players Instagram accounts have featured bottle-popping, dancing and singing ever since.
Once the celebrations stop, however, the players have to return to their day jobs. That means the National Womens Soccer League, a fledgling competition now in its seventh season. If fans want to keep up with Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, they will have to watch Reign FC and Orlando Pride. The question, of course, is whether that will happen. There was a spike after the US won the World Cup in 2015, with NWSL games selling out once USWNT players returned, and just about every club setting attendance records. The problem is that crowds then dipped once the World Cup glow faded. Portland Thorns, the biggest club in the NWSL, average more than 18,000 fans a game but they are an exception. Rapinoes club, Reign FC, drew fewer than 4,000 a game last season.
For whatever reason, were constantly having to remind people that the quality is there, the entertainment is there, and the competition is there, Rapinoe said of the NWSL. World Cups and big moments like these always provide that extra boost. You know its going to go up a level and maybe its not going to sustain but we hope this time it gets there and levels out a little bit.
The more the NWSL grows, the better it is for the USWNTs standing in the world as other countries nip at their heels. After all, the NWSLs talent pool is partly why the US have been so successful in the last two World Cups. But other countries with strong domestic leagues, like Germany, England, France and Sweden also tend to have the strongest national teams.
For the teams that made surprising runs into the knockout round of the World Cup, that global success tracks closely with new investment in domestic leagues back home. As Serie A clubs in Italy have started adding womens sides in the past four years and the Italian federation has invested more money, the national team has benefitted, with Italy making the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1991.
The biggest example is Italy, said Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema during the tournament. They put a lot of money into Juventus and in a couple of other clubs. You see it directly [at] the World Cup.