With an ongoing postponement of all sports in the United States and beyond, we’ve seen continued communication from the National Women’s Soccer League as to when and how they’re going to try to hold a season, while still adhering to public health guidelines. This is an uncertain time for everybody, and the NWSL does have the advantage of not actually beginning a season before everything was put on hold. However, the path forward remains unclear.
It may seem obvious to most, but it’s worth saying that the considerations in holding a season are different for the NWSL than many other, more established leagues. In European men’s soccer, the push to finish the season comes from expensive television contracts (even now, Serie A is ‘hypothesizing’ a May starting date to begin closed-door matches again, and the Premier League continues to explore options), which is also a major consideration for more popular American sports. The NWSL has its own TV deal, recently announced in partnership with CBS (as well as Twitch), but the money involved is unlikely to be enough to significantly sway the need for the league to host closed-door games.
This then opens up the question as to whether or not it’s financially worth it for a league in its infancy to hold games that aren’t open to the public. The lifeline of an NWSL season is going to be intrinsically tied to having paying ticket holders in attendance. New NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird, in an exclusive interview with The Equalizer last week, said that they’re hoping for the ability to resume as normal by the end of June, though projections from medical professionals indicate that might be an optimistic timeline for congregating in the thousands.
The most simple and dire solution is to cancel the season. But after the triumphs of 2019, this was the season where everything was supposed to pay off. So, how could the NWSL still play in 2020, even if the window for a season keeps shrinking? Here are some options:
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