With their World Cup win this summer in France, the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) has once again given the country a reason to love soccer. From Alyssa Naeher’s stone-cold tenacity to the eccentric flair of Megan Rapinoe, this team has won over the hearts of a nation. Their 2-0 defeat over the Netherlands set the course for the USWNT to be touted as American heroes. But that was two months ago, and now, as the allure of a World Cup starts to fade, women’s soccer risks disappearing for another four years.
This World Cup saw an unprecedented amount of support for the women’s game. A record-breaking one billion viewers watched the tournament worldwide, with approximately 14.3 million tuning into the final match in the U.S. Across the country, celebrities and ordinary citizens alike applauded the USWNT for their impressive domination on the world stage.
Nevertheless, as the international tournament drew to a close, so did the public’s regard for women’s soccer. New fans who passionately cheered on the USWNT for a month straight were left with a bittersweet feeling come June 8, when they wistfully prepared for a four-year drought devoid of their favorite stars in action. But what many fans have yet to appreciate is that women’s soccer exists outside of the World Cup.
Some of the highest-class women’s play is in America’s own backyard. The National Women’s Soccer League, or NWSL, is the premier level of women’s soccer in America. The league comprises of nine professional club teams in DC, Orlando, Portland, Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Utah, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
Along with every member of the USWNT World Cup roster, the NWSL is home to dozens of international superstars including, but not limited to, Marta, Sam Kerr, and Christine Sinclair. Newly-crowned world champions Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh both play for the local Washington Spirit.
Despite the successes of the 2019 World Cup, the matter of equality has remained at the forefront of many women’s soccer-related conversations. While a stubborn U.S. Soccer Federation may be stagnant in their efforts to treat their women’s side the same as their men’s, it may seem difficult for fans to assist in attaining tangible change. Luckily there are ways to help—the NWSL is your one-stop shop to enjoy quality soccer while advocating for equality in the sport.
For the multitudes of supporters that called for equal pay during the World Cup, this league is the premier vehicle through which they can make a difference. As the top American players spend a majority of their time here, achieving equality starts with the success of the NWSL and women’s game domestically.
By promoting the NWSL, fans help foster an environment that allows professional female soccer athletes to thrive. The growth of the league gives players the ability to focus in on soccer as a realistic full-time job, strengthening the level of competition and professionalism in the women’s game. Though the NWSL already hosts some of the greatest athletes in the world, it needs continued backing to maintain the sustainability of women’s soccer and develop the next generation of USWNT stars.
So how do you support the NWSL? Watch a game! Tickets to Spirit home matches at the Maryland Soccerplex sell for as low as $20. And if the trek to Germantown is too much of a hassle, the Spirit also play a few games at Audi Field, the next being September 14 against the Seattle Reign (see Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Rapinoe in the flesh).
For those who can’t make it to a game in person, every NWSL match is streamed live on Yahoo! Sports, along with a select few that will air on ESPN networks. Washington Spirit games are also broadcast on Monumental Sports Network and NBC Sports Washington.
It doesn’t matter if you end up joining the Spirit Squadron or casually tuning into a game every once in a while. If you found yourself hooked on the Women’s World Cup this year, watch the NWSL. If you fell in love with the USWNT’s immense talent and fun-loving energy, watch the NWSL. If Tobin Heath’s tricky skills or Crystal Dunn’s tireless defending captivated you, watch the NWSL. The World Cup may have ended, but don’t let your enthusiasm for women’s soccer die with it.