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Soccerex USA 2019: The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Soccer

For the second straight year, The Equalizer was a media partner at Soccerex USA, with EQZ founder Jeff Kassouf hosting a panel on Nov. 21 in greater Miami to discuss the state of women’s soccer.

National Women’s Soccer League president Amanda Duffy, Concacaf head of women’s football Karina LeBlanc, NWSL Players Association executive director Yael Averbuch West and Bud Light sports marketing director Joe Barnes were the featured panelists to discuss the topic.

Watch the full replay of the discussion in the video above. Below are select quotes from the discussion.

Karina LeBlanc on what Concacaf is doing for women in the region

“The reality is that the game we see here in North America is not the reality we see across our region. So, it was about trying to beat the stigmas, and what can we as an organization do to actually impact and make change. So, we decided to do a women’s-only coaching course. It was incredible, because we realized that we created an environment of growth for these women. And it’s not to say that we haven’t done it in the past, but we learned that men were coaching, but sometimes they had these subconscious biases in the way they would speak or react to women. So, we created an environment where girls and women could be heard. We created pathways for former players. And it’s something small, but the impact it had is that these women walked in at the beginning of the week feeling encouraged, but at the end they were empowered.”

Joe Barnes on Budweiser’s decision to sponsor the NWSL and engage as a partner

“Leading into the World Cup, we did a few things with players… We kept on saying, ‘What’s the big idea? What are we going to do around the finals?’ As we kept going back to the drawing board, we felt like we were just showing up… As we looked a little deeper, we were like, all these players, after it’s over, are still continuing to play. For us, we’re not a brand that’s going to make them better on the field like Nike or something like that, but we’re a brand for the fans.”

“The reaction from fans is like, ‘absolutely, we’re dying for more sponsors to come in,’ which is super unique for Budweiser, because we’re a brand that’s everywhere, right? We’re ubiquitous, but fans never thank us for just sponsoring things, like MLB or anything. But for this, fans actually went crazy.”

Barnes said that the “We Won’t Stop Watching” campaign, launched on the eve of the 2019 World Cup final, had over two billion impressions, the best Budweiser has ever seen. Barnes said that’s roughly the equivalent of three Super Bowl commercials.

Amanda Duffy on growing the NWSL fan base

“In some respects, in some markets, it’s still driven around the young girl, the soccer-mom type environment, and the future of our sport and the future fan for these players is not necessarily going to be that. They’re going to be a component, but there’s another fan that we need to engage with, that we’re not currently.”

Yael Averbuch West on getting more women involved at all levels

“If that is done by women, then the girls’ and women’s programs will be taken into account and I believe some of those things will start to improve. But we don’t have enough women working in all areas of the game, from the youth all the way up to even in the NWSL. I wish there were more women GMs, women coaches, women ownership of teams. We’re starting to see that in the men’s game, women coming in, but we need more women staying involved in the game.”

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