Fox Sports has seen tremendous ratings for this year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada. The positive news on the viewership front extends beyond the US Women’s National Team to the tournament as a whole with interest in the event and the sport seemingly at an all-time high.
Once again, the sport will look to build on that momentum and hope some of those fans stick around for the domestic professional league. The National Women’s Soccer League announced a one year deal with Fox for FS1 to televise 10 games through October 1st after the conclusion of the World Cup.
Via the NWSL:
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and FOX Sports announced an agreement to televise 10 NWSL games during the current season. As part of the deal, FOX Sports 1 will air three regular-season matches and all three games of the NWSL Playoffs, which includes the two semifinal games on September 13 and the NWSL Championship Game on October 1.
In addition, four regular season matches will be available on tablets and mobile devices via the FOX Sports GO app and online at www.FOXSportsGO.com, beginning Wednesday, July 22.
“We are extremely thrilled to once again partner with FOX Sports to broadcast the National Women’s Soccer League to a national audience,” NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “FOX Sports’ commitment to soccer, and specifically the women’s game, is fully on display during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Their impressive coverage and outstanding viewership during the tournament demonstrates their passion and dedication for the beautiful game.”
“Our agreement with NWSL showcases our continuing support of women’s soccer well after the champion is crowned at the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” said David Nathanson, FOX Sports’ Head of Business Operations. “We are proud to support the sport’s top players through our partnership.”
The partnership between the NWSL and FOX Sports means that fans can continue to watch their favorite stars from the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup after the tournament when they return to their respective clubs. In the first streamed match on FOX Sports GO, fans will get the chance to watch Alex Morgan face off against fellow U.S. Women’s National Team member Megan Rapinoe on July 22 when rivals Portland Thorns FC and Seattle Reign FC meet at Providence Park.
While this is great news for American women’s soccer and the sport as a whole, it’s worth taking with a healthy dose of cautious optimism. In spite of all the great viewership numbers and success for the USWNT, transitioning those audiences to the professional leagues has always been a struggle. The NWSL is the third attempt at a women’s professional league this millennium, following the Women’s United Soccer Association (2000-2003) and Women’s Professional Soccer (2007-2012). The current iteration has been in existence since the previous league folded in 2012.
What would be best for the NWSL is a long term commitment from Fox Sports beyond just this year. The league has seen its rights bounce back and forth between Fox (2013), ESPN (2014), and now Fox again in just the past three years. Much like MLS, if Fox Sports 1 can offer some consistency to the women’s league, then perhaps there can be a solid future for the NWSL. With the great ratings of the Women’s World Cup and the systematic growth of soccer over the last decade, there’s never been a better time for the professional game to finally find some stability and success.