In the past two months, our USWNT has embarked on a Send-Off series of games played around our country to promote the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup happening in just 4 days in Canada. This series of games were designed to get fans excited for what is to come and get players ready to play other high caliber teams.
The first game in the series was played in San Jose, CA to a sold out crowd of 18,000 as the USWNT played Ireland on Mothers Day. The team won 3-0 and had fans shedding a tear as the players walked out onto the field holding their mothers hands. Next up was USA vs. Mexico in Los Angeles Ca. They played to a sold out crowd of 27,000 and won 5-1. And most recently, before a sellout crowd of 26,467 at Red Bull Arena, the U.S. Women’s National Team played the Korea Republic to a 0-0 draw in its final game of the Send-Off Series before departing to Canada for the start of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
So the first thing I take away from this series, it is that our USWNT can draw a crowd! They clearly can sell tickets, and having gone to one of the games, I can tell you they created an atmosphere that was competitive and exciting. As you would imagine, most people were there to witness great soccer and to see their idols play in person. There is no question that they can get sold out crowds with the big names that fans have come to know and love.
However, having gone to one of these games, I can tell you firsthand, that many of the fans there were young female soccer players. Yes, I am sure they were there in hopes for the same reasons already mentioned. They wanted to see their idols and witness great soccer at the highest level. But, having been one of these little girls once, I can remember attending local college games, as well as USWNT games just to see girls playing soccer as opposed to boys, which were the only ones who got to play professionally at the time. I can remember being a student of the women’s game, which is played very differently from the men’s game. I can remember seeing girls in person whom I aspired to be like, no matter their exact level. Because the game wasn’t about the glory, the celebrity or the trophies, it was about a community of women who wanted to support other women in the game they love. And I still like to think it is still about that today.
Therefore, I am left a bit perplexed. Many cities in America have NWSL or National Women’s Soccer League teams. There are many opportunities for girls to catch professional level games locally, with many of their beloved players. But unfortunately the numbers attained at the USWNT level are not the same numbers we see at the professional level. According to www.soccerwire.com, “The NWSL experienced an overall attendance drop of 3.5 percent from 2013 to 2014. In contrast, WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association, 2001-03) dropped 14 percent from 2001 to 2002 and WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer, 2009-2011) fell 23 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Check out Sky Blue FC for example. The last USWNT game played in the Send-Off series was played in New Jersey. The crowd was sold out at 26, 467. But the average attendance in 2014 was a whopping 1, 640. These numbers show that each time a league was started we had good numbers. And as the league continues attendance begins to decline. This could be for many reasons that have to do with league finances, marketing, etc. But could it also be that I am wrong? Could it be that 6 year girls don’t care about the players in their community as much and they would rather support only the players with the highest celebrity status? Have we begun to move away from supporting female role models for our daughters in our community and instead only want them to look up to the best of the best? Is it not about women supporting women anymore? Or is it possible that the issue is much larger than this article? Could it be that the USWNT team is the only female soccer entity that attracts mainstream media attention? And with just four days to go, is the conversation even about them right now? What do you think?