‘Challenge accepted’: NWSL says fan turnout shows women’s football on the rise

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April 29, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Angel City FC goalie DiDi Haracic (13) makes a save against North Carolina Courage during the first half at Banc of California Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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LOS ANGELES, May 4 (Reuters) – Last weekend’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season-opening slate broke the league’s previous attendance record and commissioner Jessica Berman said that it was part of a renewed interest in women’s football.

Average attendance for the NWSL’s 10th season kickoff was over 10,000 fans per game, boosted by the sale of 22,000 from expansion team Angel City FC to downtown Los Angeles Friday night.

The previous record was 7,880 fans per game in 2016, according to Soccer America.

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“There were 22,000 people there buying tickets and wearing their Angel City merchandise head to toe,” Berman said Wednesday at the espnW summit in New York.

“If the crowd could talk, they would say, ‘Challenge accepted.’ Enough with the proof of concept, what else do we need to do to prove that women’s sport has commercial value and that people are willing to come forward and support women’s sport?

“The environment is there, the business community is showing up, the fans are showing up, the players are excited and engaged.

“It is now.”

The league is looking to add more teams in the coming years and Berman said she was overwhelmed by the level of interest from potential owners, including celebrity athletes.

Earlier Wednesday, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant joined NJ/NY Gotham FC as a minority investor. Last month, the team also added two-time World Cup and Olympic champion Carli Lloyd to its ownership group.

“It will be a challenge to determine who we admit into the league with so many qualified and interested investors,” Berman said.

“That’s a good problem to have.”

Excitement for women’s soccer is not limited to the United States.

Barcelona have attracted over 90,000 fans in two of their last matches, while the women’s teams of France, Germany and England have also set attendance records recently. Read more

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Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; edited by Richard Pullin

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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