NWSL Week In Review: Low attendance slightly concerning

Ray Curren May 8, 2017 129
Sky Blue was a half step behind Francisca Ordega all night (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Sky Blue was a half step behind Francisca Ordega all night (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

It was chilly and breezy, certainly for May, in the Chicago area Saturday afternoon as The Lifetime Network descended on Toyota Park for the NWSL Game of the Week, and immediately after kickoff, it was obvious that the arena was pretty empty.

In the end, although Chicago never announced it on its Twitter page, the final attendance was just 2,114 after the Red Stars had only 2,153 fans at their home opener the week before. On a scale of 1 to WUSA (to be fair, attendance was not WUSA’s biggest problem) and WPS, how much should we be worried about these early-season numbers?

I’m going to go with about a 5. Numbers have been down in Boston and Washington also, but the Breakers (while much improved apparently this season) have been at the bottom of the NWSL table for nearly four years and the Spirit’s off-field struggles have been well documented both in this space and elsewhere. Kansas City had a poor number Sunday night as well, but it struggled last season both at the box office and on the field.

The Red Stars, on the other hand, have been to the playoffs two years in a row, and boast what should be one of the most marketable rosters in the league with USWNT stars Julie Ertz and Christen Press, perhaps new USWNT starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, Casey Short, and even players like Vanessa DiBernardo, Dani Colaprico, and Arin Gilliland. Chicago has talented, exciting personnel that also win.

{MORE:  Allison’s Friday Favorites on Out at Swope and Pups to the Pitch}

And yet the crowds stay small. The Red Stars averaged only 3,005 at home last season, their first at Toyota Park (in NWSL anyway), just a small increase from the year before when playing at Benedictine College in Lisle, some 45 minutes outside Chicago city limits (a 2015 doubleheader with the Fire artificially raised the final average from 2,898 to 4,210). The optics are much better in a shared MLS stadium (Lifetime probably wouldn’t be broadcasting much from Lisle), and they are closer to Chicago, but still not quite downtown.

The real question here, as it is in any place not named Portland, is how to continue to grow NWSL and the women’s game. As has been discussed before in this space, things are most certainly more stable than they’ve ever been for professional women’s soccer in this country and barring something completely unforeseen, NWSL will be around for a while to come. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be extremely concerned about attendance numbers and strive for better.

Is the Chicago problem the market? Then, with places like Salt Lake City and Los Angeles apparently ready soon, maybe rather than expansion, NWSL can find the 10 best places for women’s soccer and put franchises there. But it should be remembered that Chicago has been a part of the landscape since WPS and actually drew decent crowds (in Lisle) for WPSL Elite games back in 2012.

Is the issue marketing? A visit to the Toyota Park website sees a big advertisement for a July rock concert with Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, and Kiss among others. That’s understandable, I guess. But it also contains much more and prominent information about the Legends Football League’s Chicago Bliss (“one of sports’ ultimate LIVE experiences”) than it does about the Red Stars, which is simultaneously telling and frustrating.

We are now just one-sixth of the way through the 2017 NWSL season, so there is some time to improve the attendance numbers in places like Chicago, especially as the weather gets warmer and school is dismissed for the summer. We know there are people working hard on getting people to the matches in Chicago (Side note: I got my friend to bring his family next week, too. They had a good time at a match last year, but it’s unfortunately much further away for them than Lisle is), but the numbers don’t lie. And they should be better in 2017, the fifth year of NWSL.

What else did we learn from a pretty wacky NWSL weekend with lots of goals?


Chicago 2:0 Houston (recap)

What Went Down: Chicago has not nearly played its best soccer and has six points to show for it through four games so they can be happy about that. Houston had a great gameplan to frustrate the Red Stars, and should have gone into halftime at 0-0 before a Sarah Hagen own goal just before the break. But it was a Denise O’Sullivan foul 35 yards from goal with the opponent facing the other way that set up the chance in the first place. And although the Dash were organized for the most part, their backline continues to struggle, and that probably won’t change with Morgan Brian (who returned Saturday) back in the fold.

The Red Stars, particularly Christen Press, continue to struggle in the final third, but gave up very few chances to Kealia Ohai and Rachel Daly, which is a credit to central defenders Katie Naughton and Sam Johnson. Chicago largely stuck to its 4-4-2 diamond formation, but Ertz obviously got forward for the goal. You have to think Press, Sofia Huerta, and the like are going to score goals at some point. Right?

Player of the Game: Julie Ertz – When at center back, you saw it a time or two a game, but now at holding midfielder (where she was Saturday), her marauding runs through multiple layers of Houston’s defense happened every few minutes it seemed. And we know she is going to win tackles, but the ease at which she is able to get from box to box and be a factor in both places (even if she did it at other levels) is striking.

Under the Radar: Casey Short – The ability to get forward has been documented well, but Short is also a very good defender and when she had to, kept Daly and Ohai in check, both athletically and with discipline. Short has made a real case for a starting USWNT spot in the last year or so.

Inside the Numbers: 19 – Minutes played by Morgan Brian, who is expected to be back in the starting lineup by next week, which should help in all facets.

Up next: Chicago – vs. Boston (Sun.); Houston – vs. Sky Blue (Sat.)

Washington 4:3 Sky Blue (recap  |  Gordon)

What Went Down: Despite being outrageously young with Christie Pearce out (none of the back four, nor goalkeeper is in more than their second year of professional soccer), Sky Blue looked remarkably composed last week against Kansas City, but that may be more of a long-term indictment of FCKC than anything else. Washington shredded Sky Blue from the opening kickoff, most notably Francisca Ordega (who mysteriously wasn’t starting to begin the season, although it could have been injury related). By halftime, Ordega had a goal an assist, plus created an own goal and drew yellow cards against half of Sky Blue’s back four. It should be noted that Raquel Rodriguez was graduating from Penn State, so she wasn’t there as well.

The Spirit are going to give people trouble at home, and despite being under pressure for much of the match, fully deserved the three points. Players like Arielle Ship and Havana Solaun are likely not headed for USWNT duty anytime soon, but they have potential to be solid NWSL players and should produce some goals, especially with the help of a healthy Ordega. And Sky Blue’s tandem of Kelley O’Hara and Sam Kerr will produce problems for other opponents as well.

Player of the Game: Francisca Ordega – Ordega is only 23, and – at least at the moment – seems to be their best chance at grabbing some wins this season. Sky Blue just had no idea how to deal with her as they fouled her three times and knocked her around a few more, and she still ended up with a part in all four goals. You may remember that last season’s bottom of the table club, Boston, was led by Natasha Dowie with just three goals.

Under the Radar: Kelley O’Hara – O’Hara has consistently shown her quality this season at a more advanced position and was rewarded with a first half goal before playing a huge part (assist) in the other tally from the run of play. But does Sky Blue need her in the back?

Inside the Numbers: 0 – Number of official saves Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made in the contest. After three very solid outings to start her career, the rookie had a tough night in Maryland.

Up next: Washington – at Seattle (Sat.); Sky Blue – at Houston (Sat.)

Portland 2:2 Seattle (recap  |  Lauletta)

What Went Down: Seattle was a little ticked off Saturday. OK, more than a little, and made it show just a minute in when Jess Fishlock put the Reign up 1-0. Seattle took a page out of North Carolina’s book: extremely physical throughout right up to the point of crossing the line in that area. Fishlock got into it with Amandine Henry on more than a couple of occasions, while Megan Rapinoe had a hard tackle on Allie Long. Both were booked for their actions and didn’t actually show much remorse. But coming off a somewhat embarrassing loss to Boston, simple pride dictated such a performance from a team with veteran players and a good coach. But we’ll see if that will drive them enough going forward, and whether they stick with the 3-4-3 high pressure that gave them this success. Certainly Fishlock can handle it, and moving Merritt Mathias up top seemed to pay dividends as well. But it’s tough to do it every week.

Portland is kind of the anti-Chicago, the Thorns have gotten some results, but haven’t really looked particularly overwhelming in any contest this season. A lot of that is playing without Tobin Heath, and there was a big change when Meghan Klingenberg came on for the second half. All of which makes you wonder what the Thorns would actually give up for Mallory Pugh. Yes, they have a little depth when completely healthy, but giving up two national team players for her is quite a change for what they’re trying to build, at least in 2017.

Player of the Game: Jessica Fishlock – Fishlock had one of three NWSL own goals on Saturday (one in each game), and probably wrapped up Goal of the Week with her amazing strike just 60 seconds in. But the own goal was almost equally as amazing because it illustrates how much ground she actually covers in a match, somehow getting deep in her own box after doing the same at the other end. Yes, she was on the edge, but Seattle certainly needed it.

Under the Radar: Allie Long – For the most part, Long was able to deal with Seattle’s attempts at high pressure, particularly in the second half. Eventually, Long got the equalizer as well. While Henry and Lindsey Horan’s play has been a bit spotty, Long has been excellent for most of this season and was a huge reason Portland got a point in this one.

Inside the Numbers: 5 – Number of times Allie Long was fouled on Saturday. It honestly felt like more watching the game live, but it’s an indication of what Seattle was trying to do and Long’s relative success in dealing with it.

Up next: Portland – at Kansas City (Sat.); Seattle – vs. Washington (Sat.)


Boston 0:1 North Carolina (recap  |  Lauletta)

What Went Down: The Breakers fought the good fight and did create a few opportunities, even if they were mostly on set pieces, but the Courage train rolls on with three more road points. Boston’s defense put together another pretty solid performance, holding the Courage to just 10 shots, four of them on goal, which should bode well for their future. We saw flashes of Rose Lavelle, but North Carolina – as they seem to do for everyone – made things difficult for players and teams that want to be creative with the ball.

For the Courage, they rotated a couple of players and were not at their best, but a championship team gets three points on such nights just as they did here. The defense, as we’ve talked about before, has been particularly impressive. Even in a 4-4-2 (Jaelene Hinkle was out with an injury), North Carolina held Boston to a pair of shots on goal, and very little in the run of play against a team that tore Seattle to pieces last week on the same field.

Player of the Game: Abby Erceg – Couldn’t really separate the pair of Abbys (Dahlkemper the other), but we’ll go with Erceg here because she nearly scored before Jessica McDonald put home the rebound for the game’s lone goal. Many have said she’s out of position and should be playing higher up the field, but she has looked much more comfortable this year than last and has played there in the World Cup and Olympics.

Under the Radar: Angela Salem – There will surely be a time soon where Morgan Andrews will be a professional starter, but for now, Salem has proven too valuable to remove in the middle of the field. Salem will not give much in the way of attacking, but as she showed here, when she’s playing well, she is a huge boost to a defense, and after last season, you can see why Matt Beard has faith in her at the moment.

Inside the Numbers: 33 – Number of NWSL goals by Jessica McDonald, now the most in league history, passing Kim Little. And she did it without the aid of any penalty kicks. It’s obviously likely that she’ll add a few more before the end of the campaign as well.

Up next: Boston – at Chicago (Sun.); North Carolina – at Orlando (Sun.)

Kansas City 1:1 Orlando (recap)

What Went Down: It looked like the Pride was going to escape with a much-needed win after creating the better chances and finally getting a goal when Marta pounced on a ball at the top of the box and made no mistake. Then a controversial equalizer set up by what appeared to be Sydney Leroux getting obstructed on a hopeful ball over the top led to Yael Averbuch bouncing a free kick off the post and Erika Tymrak poking home the ensuing scramble.

In the end, neither team can really be thrilled. Orlando remains the only winless NWSL team and at the bottom of the table with two points, and although they did look a little better, they need to start getting some wins relatively soon and play North Carolina again next week. No one other than Marta had a single shot as that problem continues. Meanwhile, FCKC – after a great opener – has been fairly anemic, especially on offense, where they managed only three shots on goal and their most prolific offensive player was Lo’eau Labonta (4 shots). And they no longer have any players coming back soon.

Player of the Game: Marta – She got only the one goal, but just adds a different dynamic to Orlando on offense. It seems as if the Pride is getting a little more comfortable around her and Tom Sermanni is hoping that that will translate into goals. Fairly soon.

Under the Radar: Brittany Ratcliffe – After being waived by Boston, Ratcliffe signed with FCKC and has taken advantage of her playing time, having another solid performance up and down the wing.

Inside the Numbers: 12 – Months since Erika Tymrak’s last NWSL goal before Sunday. She still looked like she needs to regain some confidence (she did have a giveaway right before the Orlando goal), but FCKC could really use someone like Tymrak was a couple of years ago to help their somewhat non-existent offense.

Up next: Kansas City – vs. Portland (Sat.); Orlando – vs. North Carolina (Sun.)

  • Ando91881

    Factors affecting Chicago’s very low home attendance.

    1) Zero mentions on local TV news at 10 p.m. or 6 p.m. or whenever on a Saturday or Sunday mentioning the score for even a few seconds. Sports segments on local TV news are 3 minutes long, but here they just show highlights of the Cubs or White Sox for 2 minutes…then the final minute is clips of NBA playoff and NHL playoff games. Maybe the Fire get 5 seconds on Saturday or Sunday. But there is no mention of the Red Stars match score on Saturday or Sunday.

    2) Lack of marketing by Arnim Whisler. They should do a better in this area, but it’s not quite as big an issue as #1.

    3) The start time of games might be a problem. 3 p.m. on a Saturday might not be ideal for most. A 6:30 p.m. starting time on a Saturday evening might be better.

    4) Weather for first two home games has been sunny and 50s. 55 degrees during games is not very warm.

    • Bruce

      It’s #1 and #2.

      To be clear, media relations are CRS’s responsibility, too – so it’s pretty much all #2.


      • Ando91881

        Can CRS force local TV news stations (ABC 7 or NBC 5) to mention the score for 5 seconds during their newscasts on Saturday or Sunday? Are they going to put a gun to their head?

        • Bruce

          They don’t even have media production capabilities anymore (last soccer-related video published in August of last year) so they’ve got no content to syndicate.

          The white flag is up.

          • Steglitz49

            High time to sell the franchise south. On or near the Mason-Dixon line will qualify.

          • Ando91881

            Okay. Let me change the question to….Can U.S. Soccer force local TV news stations (ABC 7 or NBC 5) to mention the score for 5 seconds? Their headquarters are in Chicago and they do have video production capabilities.

          • Steglitz49


          • Bruce

            Way too much work staring at me to get deep into this.

            I’ll just say that as a big CRS fan I’m saddened by the whole deal.

            It seems like they have simply given up.

          • Ando91881


            Given up? That’s a little harsh. They did have Ms. Press on Fox 32’s morning show a couple of weeks ago. The problem is that barely anyone watches Fox 32 at all. It gets the lowest ratings of all the local stations.

            Main concern is they aren’t getting the score of the game (with the opponents name) mentioned for 5 seconds during the evening news at 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. on Saturday night to let people know that a game was played. The stations are treating it like high school sports in the area.

    • Steglitz49

      Even simpler: no interest in WoSo in greater Chicago. Period.

      As many people live in the Chicago metro area as in all of Sweden (or Norway and Denmark combined) so getting 5,000 to a game should be a piece of cake if there was interest and beating Portland’s numbers if there was significant interest in WoSo.

      • USMNTfan4life

        Yes, I agree with that statment. I think the new team in LA (LAFC WoSo), might improve numbers, but since there is alot of stuff to do in LA, it might be hard to get people to come to games, unless you get Alex Morgan to play in Los Angeles.

        • Steglitz49

          I agree with you that LA may also be a hard sell.

          • USMNTfan4life

            We seem to agree on many things about WoSo (and soccer in general). Great to converse with you Steglitz49!

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you. Like yourself, I am a realist.

            It will be interesting to see how many turn up for the FA women’s Cup final on Saturday. It looks like the FA is succeeding in establishing it as the premier domestic event in WoSo, just like they did for BroSo many moons ago.

    • AlexH

      Regarding #3. Saturdays might be difficult because a big potential segment of their market (young players) are playing soccer on Saturday rather than watching soccer. Maybe Sunday afternoon would be a better time.

      • Bruce

        That’s a mixed bag – my daughter’s club league plays mainly on Sundays. That stated, other cities have the same issue and 1/4th the population and can still drive attendance.

        BTW – There was a carnival taking up 2/3rds of the Toyota Park parking lot on Saturday. Easily had twice as many people there than were in the stadium at kickoff.

        • They also had a Cinco de Mayo festival at Toyota Park. I’m guessing they failed to promote the 2 soccer leagues that play there?

          The fact is, Chicago’s #1 summer sport is day drinking. Even if I still lived in Chicago, I doubt I would go to the games – and I’ve been a NWSL season ticket holder since day 1. When I lived there (pre-NWSL days) I never went to a Red Stars match and even with the new location, I would probably choose to spend my weekends doing what all Northsiders do – go to a festival, rather than trekking out to a game.

          The atmosphere was pretty boring when I was at Toyota Park, so I would probably opt for the awesome Chicago summer festival atmosphere instead. I’m sure most other 20-30-somethings are spending their weekends the same way.

          That leaves families and people who live near the stadium as the target for ticket sales. The afternoon game time is a detriment to families that have kids playing club soccer.

          All hope isn’t lost if they would actually ramp up their grass-roots marketing efforts, but in all honestly I probably wouldn’t attend either. And that’s as a die-hard NWSL fan. Chicago is too damn fun during the summer to waste a few hours at a ho-hum soccer game.

          If the field was closer to the city (the airport is closer to downtown than the stadium is), that would change things. It’s no problem spending the day at Wrigley or Soldier Field, but Toyota Park leaves much to be desired.

    • HOFCToDi

      The Hispanic American community only cares about El Tri. Next time El Tri visits Soldier Field, more than 50,000 fans will show up.

      • Sam Adams

        They are supporting the home team, Mexico.

      • I would show up at Soldier Field, too. I wouldn’t show up at Toyota Park any longer, though. Not unless I had a car.

    • Anton

      Look at the attendance for the top game this past weekend in Boston….a little over 2000. What does that tell you?
      The NWSL is fighting for entertainment money…….sactly! Where is the entertainment? The cost to go to a game is ridiculous, average seat cost +$20 per person, food +$15 per person, family of 4 +$150. USWNT players going to play elsewhere????, more international players to shake a stick at, referring is awful, some games played in the heat of the day????, some of the futbol is not very good Carolina/Boston is an example go look at the replay….ugly! I could go on but you get the picture! Lastly, if USWNT players are going to run the league then you can count me out. My little Suzie wants to see USWNT players play and I don’t want to spend money on players she doesn’t care about. This league has gotten progressively worse. What happened to VALUE and QUALITY?

      • mockmook

        Boston vs Carolina was a very good game — and it would have looked good in person — isn’t that what we are talking about?

        First you want USWNT players involved, then you don’t — make up your mind.

        And, your daughter (and you?) doesn’t want to see Internationals? Is it the league’s fault that you can’t teach your daughter to appreciate players regardless where they come from?

        Seems you are just interested in complaining (or trolling?).

        • Not Anton

          Is this the guy who bitched about having to explain to his kids that there were homos on the teams?

          • mockmook

            Is this the guy who calls gays and lesbians “homos”?

        • Breakers fan

          I’m concerned about the pretty marked drop in attendance at the Boston games so far, but I also know that there are some extenuating circumstances and contributing reasons for it, though that’s not to say it’s guaranteed that attendance numbers will jump dramatically as the season progresses.

          Factors, that at least I consider to be real ones:

          1. Prices have gone up this year, fairly significantly, as is to be expected. Still hugely less of course than going to a Red Sox or Celtics game. Not sure of exact numbers but I believe they’ve risen about 33% or more from last year. That is probably keeping some people away and that factor may very well persist to keep the on-the-fence fan at home.

          2. One 2 of the 3 home games the Celtics, in the playoffs, have played at the exact same time. Terrible luck but I think that is keeping at least some people away.

          3. It’s been kind of chilly at 2 of the games.

          4. School is still in session. I expect more young people to come when school is out.

          The Breakers just last week started a “Kids only $20” promotion which is a great idea and I hope it helps draw in a lot bigger numbers of fans. They also added significant bleacher seating in the middle of the field, and took away one endzone bleacher, as you all may have seen. The crowds have been pretty vocal and focused, if smaller than last year. I think in the future the team should aim to try to have less early-season home games, but all cities may be vying for that.

          • mockmook

            Thanks for the report!

            Why do you say that ticket prices had to go up? If anything, I’d think the deal with Lifetime would have relieved some pressure to raise prices.

          • Breakers fan

            I was just thinking that the pretty marked increase in the minimum salary….and perhaps the desire to pay veteran returners and 1st round picks a good amount beyond the minimum would be a big cause in the raising of ticket prices but I don’t have a firm grasp of the overall accounting for the team. Do we know what the Lifetime deal did for each team, how much income it brought to each franchise?

          • mockmook

            Ahh, yes, forgot about the increase in salary (though the cap is probably the more important figure).

            And, no, I don’t know how (or if, or the amount of) the Lifetime money was distributed. Just was cogitating out loud.

            But, seems like very poor planning by the League if the increase in salaries meant they had to raise ticket prices.

    • Paul Klee

      Other factors

      Summer Season — Hurts MLS is awful for NWSL, too friggin’ hot anywhere but Portland and Seattle maybe Boston. Chicago specific — too much other stuff going on in Chicago (i.e. Different ethnic festivals every weekend).

      Toyota neighborhood is about the worst place for an NWSL team outside of Cabrini Green. Not neighborhoody enough for the hipster types, suburban enough for the soccer moms and dads and their urchins or accessible enough for tailgating aficionados.

      • JL

        Better too hot than too cold. A fall-spring season doesn’t work in the US because some of these cities get buried in snow over the winter.

        • Paul Klee

          Snow can be shoveled, anyway there is no reason you can’t take a December/January break slowdown. Arranging the schedule playing matches outside the snow belt.

      • Yeah, why the hell did they build the stadium way out there? Toyota Park is terribly located. I wouldn’t want to drive out past the airport every weekend, either.

        If it was as close to the city as either Soldier Field or Wrigley Field, I don’t think it would be so much of a problem. Plus, you’d have public transport then, too.

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  • guest

    Hispanic men are obsessed with Christen Press … maybe they should run ads on Spanish radio/tv.

    • Steglitz49

      Sell the franchise to Tijuana or Monterey?

      • guest

        or LA, same difference

        • Steglitz49

          Even less interest in WoSo in LA than in Chicago. This was the city of the blessed m&m — Marta and Miyama — but they still went down in financial flames.

          • guest

            that is laughably untrue. Soccer is huge in Southern California and among the very sizable Hispanic population there. If an LA women’s team can’t make it, that is a bad sign. I think Austin TX would also be a good spot for a woso team.

          • Steglitz49

            I have myself proposed Austin before so I agree with you.

            Hispanics do not care about WoSo, only BroSo.

            The Chief Ideologist of the NWSL should broker a deal so the franchise ends up south of or near the Mason-Dixon line.

          • Ando91881

            I think the pro women’s soccer audience is closer to the American audience who might watch PGA Tour or LPGA Tour on television. Old people watch PGA or LPGA on television, so it is a younger version of that audience. But similar. I made my high school varsity golf team as a sophomore, and I am kind of into this. I think those who casually follow golf and are under the age of 50 might be casual NWSL followers.

          • Steglitz49

            In the LPGA the L stands for Ladies. It should have been the NLSL!

            Your point about senior citizens is well taken. New franchises have to be in location where there is not too much competition from other sports. Wealthy upper middle-class smaller conurbations should be the ticket.

          • guest

            USWNT was unpopular during the first run of pro women’s soccer. I think things have changed drastically just over the past 5 years. LA would be my first choice to start a new franchise, if I were running this league; ideally it would be attached to a men’s team for back office/marketing streamlining.

          • Steglitz49

            Just because Zlatan is out injured it does not mean that the good burghers of LA will turn to WoSo in their cups.

            Judging by Europe, unless you have a mighty sugar-daddy, WoSo are better off in small conurbations where the inhabitants take the team to their hearts.

          • mskillens

            Whachatalkinboutwillis? We got at least 6,500 people a game AT THE LEAST! I had season tickets to those matches, and it wasn’t the fans that f’ed up it was friggin AEG that screwed us over. Waiting for Mia Hamm to give us our LAFC WoSo team NOOWWWWWWWWWWWW!

          • Guest

            Mia Who? How many NWSL markets has she visited and helped over the last 4 years? Do you think she cares about a women’s team in LA? Did you listen to her LAFC talk. She essentially said after the men’s team, they have to get their DivII men’s team and boys DA sorted out, then they’d look at an NWSL team. If it’s her 4th priority, I can only imagine how low it is on the list for the other investors.

          • USMNTfan4life

            I think she is pragmatic about WoSo, in that if the men’s league is hard to get support, it will be monumentally harder to get people to care about WoSo in Los Angeles. Hell, the Galaxy have won 5 MLS Cups, and the Dodgers have not won a World Series since MLS started, and it it not listed on the sports page links. You think the LAFC women’s team is going to get any press? Not really. WoSo should focus on small markets, and let the popular WNT players go to Europe. That way, WoSo can succeed, but on a realistic level.

          • USMNTfan4life

            AEG didn’t want to support the LA Sol past one year. The company wanted another entity to buy the team and run it. When no one stepped forward, AEG just folded the team.

          • USMNTfan4life

            AEG didn’t want to support WoSo (LA Sol) for more than a year. It wanted someone else to buy the team and run it. When no no stepped forward, AEG just folded the team. They had 14K show up for their opener, but after that I think the attendance continued to fall and fall. LAFC will find out that too, since Alex Morgan or Marta will not be coming to LA. Who will that team promote?

          • Steglitz49

            If there had been true WoSo interest, attendance would have kept up because the team was star-studded. The pattern that you describe, should chill the hearts of any investor.

      • Bruce

        Monterrey (con doble r)

    • Guest

      I think her dad is Afro-Cuban.

    • HOFCToDi

      You’re clueless. Hispanic men are interested in Liga MX not Christen Press.

  • AlexH

    Woso does not have the financial muscle to advertise over the air and social media is extremely crowded. Woso teams need to pair up with broso teams so they can piggy back off of their marketing efforts. They could have fixtures and ticketing information put up on the scoreboards, programs and whatnot. Woso season ticket packages could be marketed as an add on to broso packages etc. Broso internet pages could link to the woso pages and so on.
    The way to make this happen is through politics. Broso teams still require or at least greatly desire public assistance in their business models. So every time the fat cat owners of broso float some scheme to build a stadium or improve a new one that requires public funding or concessions the visible members of the woso community need to loudly denounce any such scheme as being sexist if it does not involve support of woso and to loudly support any scheme as progressive that does.
    Political optics can go a long way in determining who gets what from the public treasury. For the record I consider myself a laissez faire capitalist so I feel dirty even suggesting it, BUT the country is what it is and if we have to be socialist we might as well be socialist with good woso teams!

    • Terry Lash

      Completely agree with you. Back in WPS days I argued on this site that WOSO would be successful only by having women’s professional teams associate with MLS teams. Commenters were strongly opposed at that time. Perhaps now with more experience this approach will be more widely supported. I hope.

      • Observatio

        That’s the way they do it in the EU and England.

        • JL

          The USA is not England and the EU. What works there is not necessarily going to work here.

      • AGuest2

        Attendance is a problem and is heading in the wrong direction. Not sure the independent owners are equipped to get the job done. There is a huge advantage for the MLS clubs, especially those who own and operate their own stadiums. With their resources and facilities they are in a far better position to make it work much quicker. It will take time and a lot of money to develop a stronger soccer culture for the large metropolitan areas like Chicago, Skyblue, Boston, and Washington, areas inundated with so many major professional sports franchises. If some of the owners were smart they might want to think about moving their franchises, especially if they could merge with one of the new MLS expansion team possibilities Strong candidates being mentioned are Sacramento, Phoenix, Cinncinati, and San Antonio.

      • GT

        However, Houston has been a failure so far in my book. The jury is still out on Orlando but picking up Marta will certainly help at least a bit. NC hooking up with an NASL team is risky but if you are content with attendance in the 4K-6K range they should be fine especially if they keep on winning. With no World Cup or Olympics it is hard to create “the buzz” the WoSo needs to grow. I think Rapinoe’s antics have served to “galvanize the base” but perhaps has alienated those who are not so inclined. Maybe they don’t care. As others have said, I think the long tern answer is more MLS owned NWSL teams in the right market and in the right locations (NYC, LA, Atlanta, Salt Lake City , Vancouver, etc.) is the long term answer. Clearly doing the same thing, in the same way, with the same people will yield the same results. So far the contract with Lifetime has not “moved the needle”, but hopefully it will if only a little bit.

        • JL

          Why are we focusing only on MLS? If more NASL or USL clubs are interested in owning an NWSL team, why not go that route? With only a handful of exceptions, the players on Portland, Houston, and Orlando have not shown much support for their NWSL counterparts. It’s been a different story for NC. I wasn’t expecting the NCFC players to show as much support for the Courage as they have, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it.

          • GT

            Good for them, that may help a bit. But for the most part, the NASL and USL teams aren’t even drawing that many fans for men’s soccer (although it is “second tier” men’s soccer). Therefore I don’t think they’ll be successful in drawing women’s soccer fans. I’m watching the NY Cosmos attendance carefully now that they have moved to Brooklyn and are accessible to mass transit. That may make a difference.

          • Lorehead

            Kudos to Diego Valeri.

          • USMNTfan4life

            MLS players have to promote their own league. That is hard enough as it is in the crowded men’s sports landscapes. NWSL players have to do the heavy lifting for the promotion of their league.

      • Steglitz49

        Why would an MLS team bother? It would only be a drain on their resources.

        Man Utd closed their WoSo down 10 years ago and Real Madrid has never had any WoSo team. MLS might as well take their lead from those as from Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Lyon and Barcelona, to name but a few.

        • Terry Lash

          You are a nattering nabob of negativism.

          • Steglitz49


            S49 is a beacon of realism.

            Why should an MLS team throw good money after bad? Portland is an exception in the US, not its rule.

        • USMNTfan4life

          That is what I have been saying. MLS teams have a hard enough time getting soccer fans (Mens) to support their league and compete with richer mens leagues in Mexico and Europe. Supporting an NWSL team is a drain on their resources. What NWSL teams need to find are wealthy owners who are not affiliated with MLS and get them to invest in those teams.

    • Bruce

      Don’t agree. At all. Times have changed.

      Organic fan growth can be driven with a combination of digital marketing (email, web content, video, seo, social media, marketing automation, etc.) and community outreach – particularly to youth clubs.

      It’s not at all expensive. A small, focused team of 3-5 could absolutely kill it in a local market with the right knowledge and an annual budget well below $100K. No MLS affiliation required.

      Very obvious to those who work in the field that about half of the clubs in the NWSL simply don’t check most of the boxes when it comes to standard, modern marketing practices.

      • guest

        Do you believe the youth clubs in the NWSL markets actively help the NWSL teams regardless of outreach. It’s not an easy task in markets with big well-funded clubs. The clubs assert that they are the ones who should be developing players, doing training, camps, etc. Anything that even nudges into what the clubs think they are entitled to causes the clubs to undermine the Pro Teams. With virtually all of the NWSL teams doing Girls Development Academies I wonder how much club support they’ve lost for this season.

        • Bruce

          Excellent question. I think you are on to something there. I’ll give you my own experience.

          I live north of Chicago, and have coached in a club with over 1000 youth players from micro-soccer to rec to club. I’d guess we have 700-800 youth girl players.

          Our club administration HAS NO RELATIONSHIP AT ALL WITH THE RED STARS. I’ve never been contacted by CRS as a coach. Neither has anyone coaching/managing my daughter’s teams.

          This is because the Red Stars spend most of the summer and off-season promoting camps that compete directly with the core activities that pay the bills for our club.

          It’s a small minded approach that prioritizes a limited number of easy dollars over market growth. I was never approached by CRS with promotions as a coach, not have any of the people running my daughter’s teams.

          It would be EASY for CRS to build a database of coaches, team managers and even parents to market to, but they cannot get past club admin because of this short-sighted approach.

          In contenxt: there are over 1000 girls club teams registered with the IWSL in my state. There are likely an additional 4000 Rec teams affiliated with those That means there are ~50,000 players and families that could be added to lists and included in promotions. NADA.

          They could start here…


          • Guest

            I think it’s probably an issue everywhere. If youth clubs actually got behind the league and actively supported promoting the professional teams in their areas the stands would be full everywhere. I’ve seen it in how hard the MLS teams had to work to bypass the club leadership and how long it took them to be able to have a direct connection with the parents. Now that the MLS clubs have clearly established themselves and their Development Academies in a lot of the markets the clubs play along a little better. Won’t be the case on the women’s side for a while yet. But if you are looking for a solution and to put pressure on a set of people, ask your club leadership what they are actively doing to support the women. You’ll probably hear crickets or feel smoke being blown up your butt.

          • Guest

            The Red Stars are in a no-win situation with the clubs. Unless you try to spend your time and money helping a club thump another club you aren’t going to get much support. The Red Stars should build multiple revenue streams to the best of their ability and connect directly with fans and parents to the best of their ability. Those connections can be used over and over. A connection with a club could be here today gone tomorrow.

            You seem like you might have lead gen / marketing background. If so, you should do some pro-bono work and help them build a small army of supporters. I’m sure Whisler is doing his best and could use some help from an avid supporter or two.

      • Reality

        If this doesn’t get them out, I don’t know what will… 🙂


        • Bruce

          Dogs in the park would be a reason my family *wouldn’t* go.

          Not a lot of thought going into these “fill the park” promos.

          Last week it was a promotion of a Julie Foudy “Sock Talk” and book signing that was pushed. The article about her show garnered ZERO relevant comments here.

          This week, they are trying to promote Yoga In the Park – an event apparently focused at 13 year-olds with the money and authority to set Mom’s agenda on Mother’s Day.

          If these were tangential promos, then it would be no big deal Fact is that CRS are providing no pre-game information and pushing these ideas as the *primary/only* reason to go see the game.

          • Bruce

            Question: who is this promo directed to? In what universe will a young girl be able to pull the trigger on an offer like this?


          • Bruce

            It is Wednesday, and the following link represents the ENTIRETY of the pre-game information created for CRS game this weekend against BOS.

            Not 1 word of copy.


          • Reality

            I’m curious to know who is behind all these amateurish efforts? Is Whisler guiding it, approving it or unaware of it? I would like to see EQ, as a follow-up to this article, reach out to him and have him explain why the attendance is so poor and what is his strategy for improving it.

  • Silver Frost

    I’m sorry, but there were not 2100 people at that CRS game. Several hundred at best. The problem is that we are not in a WC/OG cycle right now, and won’t be in one until 2019! If the NWSL can hang on with subsidies from Paulson and USSF until then, it will be OK, because there is always a spike in woso interest at WC time, maybe even before with qualifying matches. WNT will do well and get more people to the games. Same for the 2020 Olympic year. But the WNT needs to do very well (grab gold).

    • Guest

      What subsidy do you believe Paulson provides? Your point on WC/OG is right on, just look at the differences in all 3 leagues. The solution is not going to be to spend a million on marketing to get 500K in attendance. The key question is always does the potential fan base in Chicago care enough to harass their friends to support the team the next two seasons? If not, it sounds like there are a few other markets who would be happy to absorb a team. Same goes for other markets like DC, Boston, NJ, etc.

      • mockmook

        As long as Whisler wants to keep losing money, let him.

        Bring up the NWSL attendance thru expansion.

        • Guest

          I don’t think he wants to keep losing money, but he has been around the challenge for a while and is probably making decisions he thinks at least minimize losses. Everyone remembers some of the obscene spends of marketing in previous leagues. Huge spends without a direct increase in revenues just raise the chance that a couple of teams will fail. If people want their local teams to survive and stay in the market drag your friends to a couple of games.

      • guest

        any paulson subsidy should be public information.

      • Guesting

        I agree. Go where the market will be more favorable. Stay away from large metropolitan areas for now. Those markets are going to require a lot of time and money before they will ever will be profitable.

    • Bruce

      My daughter, her friend and I all did manual counts during the middle of the first half. We each concluded separately that there were between 900 and 1000 spectators present.

      • DNG

        Just curious but have the prices in tickets changed this year? I’ve heard complaints that some of the prices are too high.

        • Bruce

          If I recall correctly, the most expensive non-field level tickets were $30 last year. This year those are $35.

          Importantly, parking is now charged for single and flex package ticket at $20 per car. So the effective price for a 3-person single game outing has risen $35 ( 3×5 + 20 ) or 33% over last year.

          Ticketmaster seating availability charts reveal that no more than 250 season tickets have been sold. That not including general admission for Local 134 boosters. It’s more than problematic.

          Backline soccer did an amazing breakdown of NWSL ticket prices in February.

          • Steglitz49

            Most European clubs charge between $10-15 per adult. Even the FA women’s Cup final is about $20 for an adult and then kids go free!

          • Ticket prices stink. I think they’re too high in KC, considering we sit on bleachers that are less comfortable (narrower, more crowded) than your local high school bleachers.

          • Steglitz49

            The FA is showing how it is done. They have got a good sponsor on board for the ladies FA cup final tomorrow. As a result kids go free with an adult (4 kids per adult, I think) and the adults pay 18-20 dollars.

            As I typed elsewhere most European clubs charge between $10-15 per adult but their financial situation could be considered to be different.

      • Steglitz49

        Well done. Thank you.

        Many European WoSo teams manage more even when the population of their countries is that of Chicago’s — or less.

      • USMNTfan4life

        It is not going to get better. This will be the attendance until a world cup year.

  • Terry Lash

    Portland would be nuts to give up any of its USWNT members (or even any of several players), with the possible exception of Horan, in order to acquire Pugh. I am a big fan of Pugh, but she has not yet demonstrated enough on the national team to justify trading away another national team member.

    • Guesting

      I can not substantiate this but I read this on another website.

      “If a USWNT player can’t come to terms with the team who owns her rights, she is reallocated through a blind draw, which surprise, Portland won. Team who held her rights gets a compensatory pick in the 2018 draft.”

      Maybe this is why Portland doesn’t have to offer much. Just simply wait.

      • Guesting

        Forgot to mention the significance of this is that if a deal is not struct by June 1, then there will be re-allocation of player to Portland.

        • guest

          if this is true. the NWSL is a fake league.

          • Guesting

            Maybe it is a mechanism to help keep NT players from leaving and going overseas. Got to think USSF is involved in some way.

          • DNG

            Where did you read this?

          • tonysocref
          • DNG


          • DNG

            At this point idc what the league does. If they want to make up rules because they think it’s the best thing for the league fine. If not, that’s fine too and she can go to Europe or Washington if no deal gets done. I realize this is a contentious issue for owners because of the precedent it will set. What if the next player to come out early demands to go to Portland and Portland doesn’t say no. With all that being said, it’s going to be harder and harder to force players to play for teams now that the league seems pretty stable. Players are going to be looking to improve their ‘right’ in the near future assuming the league remains stable.

          • tonysocref

            Agree on the precedent it would set.
            Honestly I don’t believe that the owners want the equivalent of a Lyon in the NWSL, nor do they want to have to shut down for month or more during the WC and OG years.

          • guest

            no doubt ashley sanchez, sofia smith, sullivan and the next future uswnt hypes are watching this very closely.

          • DNG

            At some point though, top players are not going to accept being told where they have to play via drafts. We’ve already seen this with Payne and Jordan this year. Dagny two years prior. Could easily see something similar in the next couple of drafts.

          • guest

            they will if they want to play for the uswnt in world cups. right or wrong, another option is the nwsl could change the rules so that teams would retain player rights for more than one year if overseas. maybe until a certain amount of time of service in the nwsl is complete.

          • DNG

            Don’t know if that requirement is still in the CBA. I wasn’t just talking about USWNT players or potential USWNT players either. It is completely idiotic to make it harder for Americans coming out of college to enter the NWSL than it is for international stars. The league couldn’t tell Marta or Amandine Henry who they could or couldn’t play for and it shouldn’t be allowed to tell Savannah Jordan, Dagny or anyone else either.

          • guest

            let the uswnt players go overseas and join lyon if they want. but if they are not starting and playing big minutes for their club team then they shouldn’t be playing for the uswnt team. just like on the men’s side. the men leave their club for another or lesser club to get first team minutes to keep their national team spot if they have to. equality for all.

          • USMNTfan4life

            If all the best and popular WNT players go to Portland, the NWSL will lose what little popularity it has, and fold.

      • tonysocref

        That was someone making a proposal to a question I posed to them on what should happen in regards to Pugh and the Thorns. Nothing more.

      • mr guest

        odd provision. roster rules:

        > D) Retention of Rights. Teams who select a Distribution-Eligible Individual, but do not sign the Distribution-Eligible Individual to a contract, will retain the Distribution-Eligible Individual’s rights until start of preseason the following year.

        if uswnt have something different, it’s not in the league rules

      • DNG

        I have not read that anywhere. Having said that, it would not surprise me if there were new rules as a result of the CBA. NT players eventually are going to want more control over the choice of their club.

    • Guest

      I’d give Klingenberg for Pugh.

      • guest

        klingenberg is a bag of rocks. shouldn’t have even been uswnt allocated this year.

  • Arcie Tillydee

    Attendance is down even here in Portland. Of course, of the three home games, two were midday Saturday (a tough sell to the “families with kids” contingent which makes up a big chunk of any NWSL team’s crowd, even ours). The other game (last weekend v Seattle) was directly conflicting with a Timbers away match. It was much better attended…but a little over 16K for a rivalry game isn’t very good here, actually. A lot of Thorns fans (most, I’d safely assume) are also Timbers fans, and the latter team is better established. Some folk who might otherwise have attended were likely watching the Timbers instead.

    Also: the reffing in the Thorns v Reign match was staggeringly bad. Not in that it favored either team (save perhaps in allowing Harvey’s very aggressive, foul-fest game plan to work better), but in that some really egregious, nasty fouls went unpunished. Fishlock had a really late, very hard hit on Henry not just non-carded (it would have been her second) but not called at all. On replay, a no-brainer foul and a straight red wouldn’t have been out of place. I’m mentioning a Reign-on-Thorns foul, but there were examples the other way, too. I swear the league has actually somehow increased the level of rough play they allow, a stupid, dangerous, and ugly decision, if true.

    • Steglitz49

      BroSo trumps WoSo even in the US. Maybe DJT can issue an executive order to put that right?

  • Tom F

    why doesn’t the UWSNT step in & play a game in Chicago vs the Red Stars? The exposure would be incredibly helpful & honestly would be very competitive/ or even in favor of the Red Stars winning it

    • Guest

      Part of the CBA the players negotiated previously was that they will only play against other National teams. They won’t play a NWSL team or an All-Star NWSL team. They’d rather beat another national team by 10 than play the real competition for their US contracts. Another anti-competitive clause to make it harder for Jill to look at other players.

      • guest

        that is just disgraceful. but i am not surprised at this point. the uswnt players try to block equal opportunity at every chance they get. they are only concerned with self-interest.

        • guest

          and their is nothing wrong with self-interest as long as your not parading around on tv telling everyone that you are all about equality when you are really not. fake news.

      • Ashley C

        A shame because they should be desperate for real competition.

      • USMNTfan4life

        The WNT would prefer to play tomato cans so they can collect on the new $$ of their CBA? Shocker!

  • Grimm Report

    If things don’t work out in Chicago, there are plenty of fans in WNY who’d love to support a team.

  • guest

    Christen Press can console herself re: poor attendance with Tobin Heath’s new calvin klein underwear selfie. Nike is NOT going to be happy.

    • Guester

      Perhaps she is shilling for CK now. They do have an activewear line, and the Nike sponsorship market is terribly crowded.

  • mockmook

    Long and Tymrak should both be tried at CF — even more exciting would be to have a team with Long and Tymrak as their two CFs…

    • Guest

      Pretty amazing that Long is a league leader in goals despite not playing FW ever

  • mskillens

    Maybe if LA had a team, I’d actually give a darn about this league. Otherwise, as an Angeleno, I could care less about the NWSL. BRING US A FRIGGIN TEAM FOR GOODNESS SAKES!! AND GET MARTA BACK!

    • Steglitz49

      You could ask for Miyama too (if she has recovered from her injury) and all those other stars that played there.

  • JL

    If Salem continues to play as well as she has this season, why take her out of the lineup? She’s the only one who is a good fit at DM.

    • mockmook

      Not sure why Curren thinks the insertion of Andrews means that Salem has to sit.


    would like to see Andrews and Hatch get starts