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.
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).
— Lifetime (@lifetimetv) March 29, 2017
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|