My question about the WNBA and the NWSL kind of blew up — Here’s what I learned

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for Aug. 30, 2021

This week I posed a question on Twitter. This was my post:

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Let me explain the backstory. I was looking at media coverage of both leagues, and wondering why the NWSL has higher average attendance, as well as the big names from the national team, yet gets so little coverage in the mainstream press. For example, at AP we do game stories on the WNBA, but only scores for the NWSL.

My post was mostly self-serving: I am always trying to figure out how to best cover the league for AP in a way that reaches a wider variety of readers. Is that game stories? Features? Video?

This could be part of a larger discussion about coverage of women’s sports overall, but I digress.

The responses were awesome. As I stated, I didn’t want to pit one league against he other. Far from it. Just seeking input.

The overwhelming response was that the WNBA has been around longer and has a considerable track record, so the established media outlets are more inclined to cover it. Fair enough.

Good second point: American audiences are more inclined to watch basketball than soccer. Add to that the popularity of the women’s college game. That boosts the WNBA.

Good third point: The WNBA has a partnership with the NBA. The benefits are obvious.

But this was the one that surprised me. Some think the prominence of the USWNT actually takes away from the NWSL. I heard it a lot.

Maybe there’s an argument to be made that the focus shouldn’t be on the national team stars but more on the overall quality of the league?

Neil Morris also pointed out the TV deal. This is important: This week I had trouble finding a game that CBS Soccer indicated on Twitter was on Paramount+. Turns out it was on CBS Sports, which apparently isn’t always available on Paramount+ but it is sometimes? I think?

Point of the story: They don’t make it easy. If the league had a deal that provided one-stop shopping for the games, I’d buy it! But right now, it’s just a patchwork. You get some games, you don’t get others.

But again, this goes back to soccer < basketball in the United States.

Last night we all saw an example of what could be in a perfect world. The Thorns visited the Reign at Lumen Field as part of a doubleheader before the Timbers-Sounders match. A rivalry and Jimi Hendrix night! What more could you ask for?

More than 27,000 fans were there for the NWSL match. It’s a record for attendance, but it wasn’t a standalone game.

And granted, it was here in the Pacific Northwest, where soccer has a greater following.

While I don’t like the idea of men’s leagues propping up women’s leagues, I think that an MLS-NWSL partnership like this works. It obviously brings fans to the games. Of course, it won’t work in places where there’s no MLS teams, but we’ve seen in the past (Chicago!) that it can bring attention to the the league.

Steph Yang asked Megan Rapinoe after the game about whether the reception is indicative that these kinds of games show the league’s true value.

Rapinoe emphasized the need for investment, and said that these games can show what’s possible.

“People love good football they want a good experience as well. They want to come to a dope stadium and have all the things that that has. So I think the passion is there always from the fans if you provide the opportunity for them. I think it’s a great investment. Obviously as you saw, first and foremost, the product on the pitch is always going to be quality, it’s always been quality, one of the best in the world. In Seattle, we’ve had some of the best players in the world at all times, every single year that we play. So I feel the fans here want that.”

ON TO THE LINKS!

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! apeterson@ap.org

Links:

This is a really, really well done piece by Leo Baudhuin for The Athletic on Quinn and their historic accomplishment.

This is also a very good piece from Suzanne Wrack for the Telegram about the effort to get the women’s national team out of Afghanistan.

Andre Carlisle for All For XI with a thought-provoking piece.

Jonathan Tannenwald had a good story today in the Philadelphia Inquirer on the turmoil at Gotham

Tannenwald also wrote about how the Champions Cup shows how the league can grow.

USA Today’s Emily Leiker on Christen Press’ contract.

Dave Hannigan from the Irish Times looks at Richie Burke and the impact on the NWSL.

Shaun Goodwin with a nice feature on Rachel Corsie for the Kansas City Star.

Corey Roepken wrote a nice story on the Dash’s Olympians for Houston Chronicle.

Steven Goff from the Washington Post writes that Vlatko Andonovski’s job is safe for now.

USWNT players appealed to help the Afghan national team players trapped in Kabul

Caitlin Murray writes a nice story on how Carli Lloyd did it her way, for ESPN.

Amee Russkai of Goal.com spoke to Janine Beckie about how the USWNT isn’t intimidating anymore.

CONCACAF launches WeBelong campaign to encourage women and girls.

The Sporting news looks at the frontrunners for the Ballon d’Or.

Blair Newman for The Equalizer on the young players to watch in the WSL.

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf on the big day that helped pull Angel City into focus.

Five At IX: Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock

Question: You’ve played in big stadiums before but this is the first time with the Reign, can you describe what the moment was like?


Fishlock: It was good, you know, I think we knew that if you got a lot of people in the stadium that it was gonna be a riot for us. And, you know, fair play to them that, the fans showed up … and as soon as we got that first goal I think we use that for the momentum control the rest of the game, I think we did a pretty good job of that. And in the second half, you know, I don’t really think Portland scared us that much or threatened us that much, and we just controlled the game and like I said it was great.

Question: Megan, you were being cautious about attendance on Wednesday when we spoke to you. What do you think now?


Rapinoe: I think it was very clear, this is what this team deserves. This is how we play all the time and we have two the most dramatic people in the attack, probably the two most dramatic people in the entire league. On one team. Entertaining at times, as well. It’s hard honestly not to be a little bit bittersweet because I think of all the years past where we consistently have some of the best players in the world on this team and for this to be, you know only the first time that we get to play in a big stadium like this and you know play in the Sounders’ stadium. What could have been. But hopefully this is a sign of things going forward. I think we deserve to play in a bigger stadium, I think we deserve to play in this stadium, obviously the fans loved it. We put on a good show. The fans were great today. I mean it’s always so much better to be able to play in front of people. I think my personality just demands a lot of people. So, the more the better. (laughs). And obviously just to get that extra boost in a big rivalry. I think it was great for the team to be able to experience that and play in a huge stadium and just get that energy. So overall I am, I’m very happy with the fan numbers. Is there like a petition we could start to just like play here more often and have this many people?

Question: The second half where obviously you guys were trying to get that third goal, but also preventing Portland to try and get that equalizer, can you talk about the team’s collective defense.

Fishlock: The way that we played, the way we came out, the way that we organized our game plan, we worked on that this week specifically for this game. And I’ll say that, it says a lot of our group to be able to do something that’s quite different to what we’ve always done, to the level that we did it today. (Inaudible because of press box noise). I can’t really say anything more than this group was fantastic and I love them, and we are a fantastic group. We’ve said it from Day 1 here. We just needed some consistency, some vision, a collective kind of togetherness to get to the level that I know, that Megan knows, and that we believe we can get to. And we’re still not there yet, don’t get me wrong, today was great. But this team has so much potential that I for one, I cannot wait to see it. Today was a glimpse of just what we can do

Question: The Portland Thorns came into this game unbeaten in 10 games, fresh off, winning the international Champions Cup. How does it feel beating your rival and ending that streak for them?

Rapinoe: Obviously this is a big game for us just in the flow of the season and in the standings. We really needed these three points, we really wanted to get these three points, so that was kind of top of mind I think, and then put a rivalry on top of it, and obviously they’re in a good run of form. I mean they’re a great team. They have great players, we knew it was going to be tough. Super proud of the group today, just the way we organized and stayed true to what we were doing, and hurt them on the other end. So overall it’s just a great team win on a honestly, a really special day. And Laura said it prior to the game, these games are amazing if you perform and if you take advantage of it, and they can be some of the worst games if you don’t. The group really showed up and just brought that fight and brought that heart and just took advantage of the entire experience and all the fans and playing in the stadium today. And I think, hopefully we can get, get back here again because I think it’s what this team deserves.

Question: Last week the team went from kind of playing catch up against Gotham in order to win, and then this game, you came out and dominated the score and held that lead today so just wondering. How did you prepare for this match.

Rapinoe: it was great to start on the front foot, we’re obviously very familiar with Portland, but to be able to start on the front foot and be aggressive, get out into those wide spaces and just attack was fantastic for us today.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Annie Peterson