NWSL on Lifetime broadcast team, schedule announced

The Equalizer Staff March 30, 2017 41
Lifetime will make five visit to Orlando this season including the club's debut match at the new Orlando City Stadium (Photo: Orlando City SC)

Lifetime will make five visit to Orlando this season including the club’s debut match at the new Orlando City Stadium (Photo: Orlando City SC)

Jenn Hildreth and Aly Wagner will be the voices of NWSL matches on Lifetime this season. Additionally, Dalen Cuff will serve as pregame host and sideline reporter, and Kate Markgraf will make select appearances as a sideline reporter. The hiring on Hildreth and Wagner was first reported by The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta and Jonathan Tannenwald of philly.com reported Cuff’s inclusion on the team.

Hildreth and Wagner are both familiar voices to women’s soccer fans. Hildreth was an analyst on WPS broadcasts and has been the play by play voice for NWSL matches on the FOX networks. Wagner was an analyst during the 2015 World Cup and was more recently part of the streaming coverage of the NWSL draft. Markgraf has called the last two Olympic soccer tournaments for NBC and last year worked the European Championships, becoming the first woman to work as an analyst at a major men’s tournament. Wagner and Markgraf are both Olympic gold medalists and both played in WPS. Markgraf was also part of the 1999 World Cup team (as Kate Sobrero) and was later a founding player in WUSA.

Cuff has previous experience as a host and sideline reporter, having done the job with the New England Revolution. He was also part of NBC’s 2016 Olympic coverage and is currently a college basketball analyst for ESPN.

{MORE NWSL:  Lee: How the Red Stars won the off-season  |  Weekend preseason roundup}

Thursday’s announcement came along with the full regular season schedule that includes live matches every Saturday afternoon throughout the regular season. The season-opening match between the Pride and Thorns will kick off at 3 p.m. EST and every other Lifetime match will kick at 4 p.m. EST. The only weekends without live NWSL matches are during the FIFA windows when the league will be dark. Beginning on Saturday, August 12, there will be some flexibility to adjust the schedule so that the most relevant matches are shown on Lifetime. This flexibility will not be limited to the backup game currently assigned that those weeks.

Most weekends include a second match scheduled in the 4 p.m. EST television window. According to a league spokesperson, those matches will be part of the NWSL live stream package and will serve as backup games to the national broadcast. The feed will not be split, and the home markets of the teams playing the backup game will not see their local teams on Lifetime unless the entire country is forced to switch over.

The league has yet to announce plans for how the games will be streamed in 2017. YouTube, which housed matches over the first four league seasons, is not expected to be directly involved again.

Lifetime will visit seven of the 10 NWSL venues with the Breakers, Spirit and FC Kansas City only appearing in away matches. The Breakers and Blues will only appear once on Lifetime with fans having to wait until September 2 in Orlando to get a televised glimpse of No. 1 overall pick Rose Lavelle. That match will be one of five broadcast from brand new Orlando City Stadium, including the Pride’s first match there on April 22 against the Washington Spirit.

The Pride will appear a total of seven times, tied for the most with the Houston Dash. The Dash and Courage are the only teams who will appear on three consecutive weekends. The Dash visit Chicago (May 6) then play at home (May 13) and away (May 20) with Sky Blue FC. They will then make it four straight when they host the Reign (May 27). The Courage host Sky Blue (July 1) and the Reign (July 8) before heading to Portland (July 15).

Highlights of the schedule include a rematch of the 2016 NWSL Championship between the Courage (formerly Western New York Flash) and Spirit in North Carolina on August 19 and the Pacific Northwest rivalry between the Thorns and Reign in Seattle on August 26.

The full schedule is below.

Date Pregame Kickoff Home Team Visiting Team
Saturday, April 15, 2017 2:30 PM 3:00 PM Portland Thorns FC Orlando Pride
Saturday, April 22, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Orlando Pride Washington Spirit
Saturday, April 29, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Portland Thorns FC Chicago Red Stars
Saturday, May 06, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Chicago Red Stars Houston Dash
Saturday, May 13, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Houston Dash Sky Blue FC
Saturday, May 20, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Sky Blue FC Houston Dash
Saturday, May 27, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Houston Dash Seattle Reign FC
Saturday, June 03, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM North Carolina Courage FC Kansas City
Saturday, June 17, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Chicago Red Stars Washington Spirit
Saturday, June 24, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Orlando Pride Houston Dash
Saturday, July 01, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM North Carolina Courage Sky Blue FC
Saturday, July 08, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM North Carolina Courage Seattle Reign FC
Saturday, July 15, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Portland Thorns FC North Carolina Courage
Saturday, July 22, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Chicago Red Stars Orlando Pride
Saturday, August 05, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Portland Thorns FC Houston Dash
Saturday, August 12, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Orlando Pride Sky Blue FC
Saturday, August 19, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM North Carolina Courage Washington Spirit
Saturday, August 26, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Seattle Reign FC Portland Thorns FC
Saturday, September 02, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Orlando Pride Boston Breakers
Saturday, September 09, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Orlando Pride Seattle Reign FC
Saturday, September 23, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Houston Dash Chicago Red Stars
Saturday, September 30, 2017 3:30 PM 4:00 PM Portland Thorns FC Chicago Red Stars


  • kernel_thai

    Nice to see Wagner get the gig. Still the lack of streaming info is concerning.

  • Paul Klee

    Bad News — Four straight weeks (entire month of May) of the Houston Dash.
    Good News ( for Kealia Ohai fan boys and girls ) — all matches are likely to be sans Carli Lloyd.

  • wolf

    I’m not impressed.

  • CED

    KC and Boston each are only involved in 1 game on the national broadcast. While Orlando and Houston have 7, Portland and Chicago have 6. By these blatant disparities it seems each club must have had to have been given a minimum of 1 game and that’s all KC and Boston got. Boston was by far the worst team in the league so not putting them on much makes sense. But, then by the same note Orlando and Houston who were 2nd and 3rd worst (regular season) in points and not even close to a playoff spot are on a lot. Washington finished 2nd and are on just 3 times. They really aren’t concerned with putting the best teams on and the best quality of their product, it’s about putting on “names”…Lloyd, Morgan even if their teams are poor and the have consistently played mediocre for their club sides, despite their name recognition.

    • Bruce

      When you look at the home side of the TV slate, I think that stadium optics have everything to do with teams being left out in the cold.

      It looks like the entire schedule was worked to maximize views of MLS stadiums. There’s only 4 of those and NCFC also will look good on TV.

      No one involved wants to nationally broadcast a game from what looks to be a high-school football field.

      • CED

        Nice big empty stadiums look good on tv? That will be the case in all those “MLS stadiums” except Portland and Orlando. Chicago for example will be 20K plus stadium with maybe 3K people.

        • Anson

          Nice Big stadiums are nice only when Fans show up. When the TV camera fans to a player or a play and in the background all you see is empty seats its not good for the Team that is hosting and for the league. I definitely see the attendance going down this year. NT players opting out, players incompetence are above the FLAG and just crappy soccer. JE is to blame!

          • Bruce

            Toyota Park (CRS) is one of the few venues where section seating policies and camera angles make it look fairly full even if only 3,000 fans show up. That’s by no means a sure bet, though.

      • Nat

        I think that the reason why teams with big stadiums got more games aside from being linked with MLS teams is because of technical accommodations to broadcast live games, I don’t see how you can broadcast a professional quality game at the Spirit Soccer Plex without first time audience wondering if they’re watching an ammature league instead of a Professional one. We should not complain and be glad there are efforts to improve the number of games being broadcast in a professional level. On the other hand we should be glad of not being able to deal with bad streaming and no audio for half of the games anymore.

        • SpiritFan80

          We all knew there would be some hiccups with this, esp year one. It sucks that some great teams/players won’t be showcased like they should. Some of the team’s facilities just are not up to par though. There will be improvements made along the way I’m sure.
          I do hope that they make Chicago’s stadium look good because it does look bad being so empty. Houston also sometimes.
          I think this is a step in the right direction for the league and the players. If they come through on the streaming with an easy, quality product, I’ll be mostly satisfied.

    • sandrae gunter

      Stadium played the biggest part here not record, Boston and FCKC stadiums look way too unprofessional, that said, they could have been on more away games at least. Most surprising is that Sky Blue gets a home game over Spirit and Reign gets One (Field may have caused this)

      • CED

        KC and Boston are no worse than Boston. KC is at a Swoope Soccer village. Also, the fact is nice looking stadiums that are empty serve little purpose.ie…Chicago and that will be the case at others who will have nice looking empty stadiums on tv

    • guest

      You know Leroux is steaming mad

    • One of a Kind

      That’s how it is in every sport. The Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA hadn’t been on a TNT broadcast for literally 14 years until they played the Bulls on the network this past December. Why? Milwaukee, despite having reached the playoffs within that 14 year span, is a very small market and lacked a transcendent star before the rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the other hand, the terrible Lakers and Knicks are on national broadcasts in abundance annually due to both name recognition and big city appeal.

      With how young and relatively unknown the NWSL still is, it makes all the sense in the world to heavily showcase both the stars and beautiful stadiums of the league. From there, you hope viewers like the product and become willing to watch some of the lesser-known teams and players. All things considered, I actually think they did a decent job with the TV schedule. I’m not sure what some of the naysayers expected in regards to scheduling.

  • William

    Very disappointing schedule, not balanced at all. I agree it seems to have been developed strictly on stadium metrics.

    • CED

      Portland and Orlando home games make sense b/c they are top in attendance and have good stadiums, or will in the case of Orlando. Some of the other selections are dubious.

      • ANTON


  • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch
    • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch


  • Bruce

    Anyone else notice that the league has never used the word “free” when talking about streams?

    I’m expecting that the app/site will ask you to log in with a cable account that includes Lifetime a la WatchESPN.


  • Gary Diver

    NWSL Death Wish

    “The full regular season schedule that includes live matches every Saturday afternoon throughout the regular season.”

    Could someone compare the availability of watching matches this season with last season?

    I have not followed the Lifetime NWSL arrangement. (I do not think it is available in Canada). Anyway, last year I was able to watch nearly all NWSL matches live streamed on YouTube. So what is becoming of the YouTube streaming of all NWSL matches?

    If individual NWSL teams are not live streaming their matches and the only matches to be seen by anybody are the Saturday Lifetime matches, NWSL has a death wish.

    • Bruce

      Lifetime Canada’s Twitter account stated back in January that the games would not be broadcast in CA.

      Lauletta stated that YouTube will NOT be used on Twitter just last week.

      NWSL twitter said today that all non-broadcast matches will be streamed.

      There has been no word on what the streaming platform will be.

      NWSL Media has open job postings (still) for positions that will lead the development of streaming apps + website.

      The league has never ever said that streams would be available for free. I’m surprised/shocked that no journalist has picked up on this.

      See my post above for the main options Lifetime has when it comes to streaming models.

      • Gary Diver

        Thanks for the info. This gets curiouser and curiouser. It is not clear whether anybody knows what they are doing just two weeks before the season opening.

        Is it true that NWSL does not have a commissioner? What a bush league.

        • Bruce

          Jeff Plush resigned at the beginning of March, but it was said at the time that he would stay on for a while to help the transition. I think a lot of fans are happy he’s leaving, but it’s hard to imagine how the timing could be worse. No word at areal from the league regarding replacement candidates.

          • Gary Diver

            2017 could easily be a make or break year for NWSL. If they know what they are doing they are not communicating it very well.

          • Steglitz49

            There is nothing to build on. OG-16 was a washout. The worst ever.

            The big names are playing in Europe: Alex, Carli, Crystal and HAO as well as assorted other Americans let alone Canadian WNT players.

          • Guesting

            And yet Portland has 6802 and 6129 show up for two pre-season games.

      • Steglitz49

        CA = California. I suspect you mean CAN; probably not CND. Maybe the CIA can help?

  • Bruce

    There are three main routes NWSL media can go with streaming:

    1. Free- like W-League Matches on http://www.foxsports.com.au
    2. Tied to a Cable Subscription like http://www.espn.com/watchespn
    3. A Paid Internet Service like http://www.foxsoccer2go.com/

    Given that A+E is an equal partner in NWSL Media – and under the same corporate umbrella as ESPN – my money is on #2.

    That would essentially require users to sign up for a cable package including Lifetime and would effectively geo-block feeds outside of the US. How they do this – and if they would extend feed access rights to subscriber of on-line services like Sling.com is a huge driver of cost.

    For a cable cutter like me, I am prepared to spend $25 per month for a Sling subscription to have access to games. Ask me to pay $80 per month for Comcast and even I’m out.

    • guest

      “A+E is an equal partner in NWSL Media” I thought it was a 25% stake?

      ESPN can force viewers to purchase cable TV because they are the richest cable channel, period. But can a minnow like Lifetime force you to buy cable? Doubt it.

      Maybe they will pick option 1 with the idea of drawing in more viewers, and offset costs by running ads? Think positive!

      • Bruce

        A+E received a 25% stake on the NWSL board. NWSL media is a separate organization in which it has been reported the league and A+E are equal partners.

      • Bruce

        Such curious wording from the NWSL announcement about streaming.

        “The NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime will also be available for live and on-demand streaming via the Lifetime iOS and Android apps and online at MyLifetime.com. In addition, international fans outside of the United States can watch live and on-demand streaming of the Game of the Week via NWSLsoccer.com.”

        They cleaned it up on Twitter to say that the above would apply to all games and not just the GOTW.

        Still not using the word “free” anywhere. If that’s just an oversight, it’s a huge one. If they think they can simply drop a subscription fee on fans after months of radio silence and only 2 weeks to season kick-off, it will be a PR disaster.

        • Steglitz49

          Why should it be free? The NWSL is a pro-league. That means paying for itself. Charging to watch games seems par for the course — unless you can get sponsors and advertisers to pick up the tab.

          • Gary Diver

            The percentage of Americans who know that NWSL even exists is very small. And the percentage of Americans who know NWSL exists and follows it may be less than 1%. NWSL has a major exposure problem and reducing contact with the public is a form of self-inflected suicide.

            If NWSL charges for live stream, few people are going to pay and they will become completely irrelevant in the sports world and will have to survive on attendances of 4,000 or less and with no prospect for growth.

            Without fans who follow the sport and care this enterprise will slowly vanish. (If you throw a party and nobody shows up it won’t be much of a party.) Probably many people on this site won’t pay to watch live stream. NWSL to reach out to the few people in the US who care about WoSo and charging them to watch will turn them away.

          • Steglitz49

            Fair enough. Providing free access to NWSL-transmissions would be a loss-leader. After 4 years, USSF have to think carefully.

            Less than 1% for the NWSL looks a realistic estimate based on that about 8% of the US watched the 2015 WC final, which was in their time-zone.

            If American players come to face each other in the FA women’s Cup final and in the ladies Champions League final, it will be interesting to get some feeling for how many Americans would watch those broadcasts. The FA Cup final is on a Saturday but the Champions League final is on a Thursday.

            Nevertheless, pro-league means making ends meet. Thus, the 4 remaining teams in the ladies Champions League are Barcelona, Lyon, Man City and PSG — all wealthy men’s teams. Likewise, the 4 still in the FA women’s Cup are Birmingham, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City, much the same.

  • Can’t wait to see aly wagner ‘s work for the NWSL this season

  • One of a Kind

    Hildreth and Wagner are two solid hands in woso. Glad to have them in the booth for this new adventure with Lifetime!

  • smallchief

    It’s interesting the imbalance among teams. As I count it, Orlando and Houston will each appear 7 times on television and KC and Boston only once each

    Portland and Chicago make 6 appearances each; Washington has only 3 appearances and Seattle and Sky Blue 4 each. NC will have 5 appearances.

    Why the difference? Undeniably, I think, the atmosphere in Portland is the best the NWSL (and the US) has to offer, so Portland should be even higher on the list for hosting games. .

    But why no home games in Washington? I think the atmosphere there is also pretty good. And no home games for KC and Boston? Maybe lousy facilities in both places. Buy Sky Blue has a home game and their facility looks like the amateur hour. (Don’t get me wrong, I like Sky Blue. it deserves better.)

    Anyway, I will much appreciate the televised games and I’m praying (rhetorically speaking) for NWSL success. ..

  • guest

    Aly Wagner is a talking sleeping pill, with occasional moronic gems like ‘Lynn Williams is a clinical finisher’ and ‘Ellis is looking for who can best pair with Lloyd’

    • Bruce

      1 Wagner > 1,000 Markgrafs

  • football-women.com

    Interesting discussion here.
    We are not into US WoSo on a daily basis in preseason.
    Still we are probably inside the bubble of US WoSo.
    We wonder why nobody had a look what happened in Europe when WoSo went TV broadcasting. Though the markets are different. But the viewer number development of the finals seemed to show similarities.
    We are happy to take what will be available from lots of countries.
    But wouldnt pay lots of subscriptions in the different countries.
    If something isnt available – pity, but so be it.
    And that is from bubble insiders.
    But what about the little football girls wanting to have a look at NWSL? What about other occasional viewers? Subscription fees (even more monthly ones) might be a high risk to close the bubble for a lot of urgently required outsiders to join. You should at least be cautious and check the consequences.
    ManCity here, Barcelona have made CL quarter final match streams available for free. Barca with free entrance to the stadium as well. They obviously think their WoSo product isnt yet strong enough to start earning money with it this way.