IThe US Women's National Team has not stopped celebrating since winning the World Cup on Sunday. The champagne started flowing into the locker room immediately after the United States defeated the Netherlands and, from the charter flight to the ticker parade in New York, the Instagram accounts of the players report shots jar, of dances and songs.
However, once the celebrations are over, players must return to their daily tasks. This means that the National Women's Football League, a nascent competition is in its seventh season. If fans want to follow Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, they will have to watch Reign FC and Orlando Pride. Of course, the question is whether this will happen. There was a spike after the US World Cup win in 2015, with the NWSL matches selling when USWNT players are back, and just about every attendance record clubs. The problem is that the crowds have plummeted once the glow of the World Cup has faded. Portland Thorns, the NWSL's biggest club, attracts an average of more than 18,000 spectators per game, but they are an exception. Rapinoe club Reign FC drew less than 4,000 goals per game last season.
"For some reason, we have to constantly remind people that quality is there, that the entertainment is there and that the competition is at the rendezvous," Rapinoe told NWSL. "The World Cups and big moments like these always bring an extra boost. You know it will go up one level and maybe it will not last – but we hope that this time it will get there and stabilize a bit. "
The more the NWSL grows, the better the position of USWNT in the world, while other countries find themselves in a hurry. After all, the NWSL talent pool is one of the reasons why the United States has been so successful in the last two World Cups. But other countries with strong national leagues, such as Germany, England, France and Sweden also tend to have the strongest national teams.
For the teams that have made surprising races in the World Cup playoffs, this global success is closely tied to new investments in the national leagues. While Serie A clubs in Italy have started to add women's teams in the last four years and the Italian federation has invested more money, the national team has benefited, with Italy qualifying for the quarter-finals. World Cup finals for the first time since 1991.
"Italy is the prime example," said Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema at the tournament. "They have invested a lot of money in Juventus and in two other clubs. You see it directly [at] world Cup."
Rapinoe agrees: "There is the clearest correlation we can have with the money invested in the federation and the level of play, the product on the field and the level of success of these teams."
But the NWSL risks being overtaken by its European counterparts. Europe is already a football home but investment has been almost exclusively for men's football. If these countries fully embrace women's football, it could negate the United States' inherent advantage of Title IX, an anti-discrimination law that essentially created a robust and competitive college football system for women.
And recently, it seems that European women's leagues have accelerated their growth faster than the NWSL. Barclays, former sponsor of the English Premier League, announced earlier this year a multi-million dollar deal with the English Super League of Women, which includes £ 500,000 in prizes. The main sponsor of Mastercard, Arsenal and Olympique Lyonnais, is the powerful French club with the largest number of national team players.
In the past, the NWSL was struggling to recruit such sponsors. After the United States won the 2015 FIFA World Cup, the NWSL could only add Coppertone sunscreens and an insect repellent cutter to its sponsors, which already included the National Mango Board – a group of leading companies .
But there is reason to be optimistic that the NWSL can take advantage of the World Cup more successfully than it did four years ago. Budweiser, a longtime sponsor of the USWNT, has signed on as NWSL's first official beer at the World Cup on a multi-year contract. As stated by Budweiser's Vice President of Marketing at the announcement of the agreement: "Becoming the official sponsor of the NWSL beer is our way of supporting not only the American women's team every four years, but also women's football every day. "
A broadcast contract for the league was also confirmed at the World Cup. After the end of a strange partnership between the NWSL and the Lifetime channel, known for its movies made for television rather than for sports, the NWSL will be broadcast on ESPN, in addition to the games released by Yahoo Sports, a property better fit.
"We need more things like that," said defender Kelley O'Hara. "Eyeballs are important and representation is important. For ESPN to have NWSL on its channels, we need it. "
The biggest asset of the NWSL is the players. The 23 women of the winning team of the World Cup of football play in the NWSL, plus 35 others who represented other countries in France. After the World Cup, the NWSL, which is still trying to find its place in the American sports landscape, could feel demoted. But the players, who are paid by US Soccer to play in the NWSL, insist that club play is also important.
"I have not won an NWSL championship yet and that's what I want to accomplish," said Alyssa Naeher, the goaltender of the United States and the Chicago Red Stars. "After these few days, I have to go back to Chicago to finish my season."