It’s hard to believe it has already been a week since the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Japan in the Olympic final and claimed their third consecutive gold medal. It was a culmination of over two weeks of one of the best stretches of soccer the U.S. women have ever displayed. For most of the players this past week has been filled with travel back home and some much needed rest. Thankfully they won’t be resting for long.
The U.S. WNT is looking to capitalize on their gold medal success and will soon embark on a victory tour. There are talks that the tour will include up to ten games over the next few months. Three have already been set for the next month with matches established against Costa Rica and Australia. The first game is set for Sept. 1 and will be played in Rochester (hometown of veteran Abby Wambach) and has already sold over 11,000 tickets in just their pre-sale orders. More importantly these games are going to be nationally televised, something that is key for women’s soccer as it rarely sees a national audience.
The urgency to televise the victory tour is thanks to the over 4.350 million viewers that tuned into their gold medal match against Japan, a stunning record for NBC Sports Network. Although nowhere near the 13 million people that watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup final between Japan last summer, this was a Thursday afternoon and NBCSN has yet to get that many people to even watch hockey in prime time.
And with no current professional league yet in place, the U.S. players will embrace any post-Olympic exposure it can get. Three years remain until the next major international tournament for the national team and these next few months are crucial as far as formulating a new professional league and giving women’s soccer the same kind of boost it received after the 1999 World Cup win.
It was announced just hours before the final Olympic game that increased discussion was in the works as far as establishing a new professional league. Three former teams from the Women’s Professional Soccer league (which ended in 2011) would join with at least two other teams based on the west coast. It is unclear at this time if any teams from the semi-pro leagues (WPSL, W-League) that exist throughout the country might also step up and join the league. Most of the details that need to be hammered out revolve of course around money. Money is to blame for the dissolution of the WUSA and played a part in the WPS coming to an end as well.
For now though hopefully the national team can continue to pick up fans as they barnstorm around the country wearing their shiny gold medals. The fall is a busy sports season to compete for viewers but it is encouraging that they are even being given the chance.
When I returned home from London last weekend I was bombarded with questions about my trip and I was amazed by how many of my non-sports friends turned into to watch the soccer matches. My good friend Rachael who before the Olympics probably wouldn’t have known Alex Morgan from Piers Morgan is now sending me video clips throughout the week of her favorite new players. Even better she already wants to know if she can go with me to the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
Die-hard soccer fans will always find a way to watch their favorite players even if they end up being dispersed outside the U.S. (thank you internet). But just like in 1999 hopefully another big win for the U.S. women will be propelled into another professional league. New fans like Rachael are counting on it.
Info on tickets to upcoming games or television schedule go to www.ussoccer.com