Predictions for the third NWSL season.
1. The Houston Dash are going to take it all this year, or at the very least be in the championship game. The Dash may have been near the bottom of the table last year, but this year, with new additions, some of the USWNT’s most dynamic players (the Klingen Missile anyone?), and just some brilliant play as highlighted in the season opener Friday night, they’re going to go far. I’ll be surprised if they’re not contending.
2. The NWSL will have a key fourth season next year. And a fifth. And a sixth after that. Unlike a few iterations of professional women’s leagues in the past decade and a half, which all failed to achieve a fourth season, this league seems poised for success — partly thanks to help from US, Canada, and Mexico soccer federations. But when the Women’s World Cup breaks this summer and all the USWNT players — soon household names for many — head back to their clubs, I’m positive there will be a spike in attendance. We may not see Thorns levels of attendance and enthusiasm all over the place, but we’ll be close in some areas. The Dash, for one, will see spikes because of their name players and success on the field. The Red Stars (Chicago) will get a boost. The Reign. Western New York Flash. It’s going to be a bad ass August, just you wait.
3. We’ll see more and more women’s soccer on TV in the coming years. It always feels like a horrible chicken or the egg scenario when you talk about the lack of popularity of women’s sports on TV. Are they not popular because the games are rarely on, or are they rarely on because they’re not popular? I’m going with the former. Women’s sports coverage gets 4 percent of national press time, and that’s just a bullshit statistic. It’s hard to offer air time when no one seems to care, but no one seems to care because air time is non-existent. Fox Sports deserves major praise for not just airing all of the upcoming run-up games to the world cup, and the most world cup games ever — the network probably well remembers ’99, and the amazing semi-final to get us into the final in 2011 — but also for the incredible ads and build up. The network is killing it. The NWSL has now begun streaming all games on YouTube this year — something even US Soccer can’t seem to figure out — and promises more national air time as well. Again, with the world cup popularity about to hit, I’m guessing we’ll see more and more games on TV.
So … yay?
I think so.
Salaries for professional women’s soccer are still laughable if you’re not also on a national team. But hopefully when air time and attendance start to spike, the players will perhaps earn enough to focus solely on their games — which in turn will see popularity increase and quality of play increases as well.
I always want more. Of course. But man, I’m just excited that the season has finally arrived, that my Thorns open at home Saturday, and that there are only a few more weeks until the World Cup begins. It feels like the start of something permanent and exciting. I hope this will be one of those key years that finally helps women’s soccer break through for good on many levels.