LYON, France – The National Women’s Soccer League, devoid of a national television deal since A+E Networks ended their agreement a year early in February, has secured an agreement with ESPN to air 11 regular-season games plus the playoffs to finish out the 2019 season.
Eight matches will air on ESPNEWS and the six others — including all the two semifinals and the championship — will air on ESPN2.
The league has been criticized by some for its lack of promotion leading into and during the 2019 World Cup, and its failure to capitalize on the massive attention being paid to women’s soccer at the moment. This deal, which puts the NWSL games on a nationwide platform, should quiet those critics for the time being.
Every 2019 NWSL match to date has been streamed on Yahoo! Sports. There have not been any matches televised on cable in 2019 after A+E’s exit ended the deal for a game of the week on the Lifetime network.
“These changes came about very quickly,” NWSL president Amanda Duffy said in February about the league severing ties with A+E. “They are changes that resulted from discussions between the principles of the entities as we were looking at the future of the league. After discussions with the network and with A+E and what NWSL and NWSL Media would be beyond this Women’s World Cup year when we know we’ll have a lot of visibility and exposure, both parties agreed the time seemed right to allow the league to be better positioned for the future then wait until the end of the third year.”
With the United States women’s national team playing in the World Cup final this Sunday against Netherlands, the TV announcement should gather much-needed attention for the league — now in its seventh season. All 23 players on the American team play in the NWSL, as well as 34 other players who represented various other teams here in France.
2019 NWSL on ESPN schedule
ESPN’s family of networks previously broadcast the 2014 NWSL playoffs, as well as some regular season matches in the past. ESPNEWS broadcast some matches in 2018.
Duffy said in February that she and NWSL owners are looking forward to the next long-term media deal, which is being negotiated separate from this 2019 package.
“[I’m] excited and feel confident about conversations with prospective broadcasters for this season and beyond,” she said in February. “And the next agreement will be centered around a longer-term agreement for the league.”
The NWSL has also re-upped with Nike through 2022, but has not yet announced the deal.
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