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Comparing the National Women's Soccer League so far to its Predecessors

The National Women's Soccer League is expanding exposure to the league in ways its predecessors never did, but attendance remains more or less the same.

Thad Bell

The National Women's Soccer League is the third attempt by US Soccer to try and get women's soccer to a successful league place in the United States. They've done well in getting exposure, using social media and free live YouTube streams of matches to give fans new ways to watch the teams.

They've also signed a deal with Fox Sports to broadcast six regular season matches and the three playoff matches. The added exposure with the multitude of international superstars like Alex Morgan, Christine Sinclaire and Hope Solo would make it seem that everything is going great for the first year league, right?

The problem, as was a problem with the now-defunt Women's Professional Soccer league, is attendance. Through eight weeks of the season the NWSL is averaging 4,238 people at each match and have an added total of 127,160. That's good enough to beat the 2010 and 2011 records from the WPS and fall about 400 people short of the WPS' inaugural season.

However there is a serious outlier in the NWSL in the form of the Portland Thorns. The Thorns have been throwing off the attendance numbers by gaining phenomenal crowds week in and week out. They have an average of 13,114 people showing up at Jeld-Wen Field to watch the Thorns.

Without the Thorn's attendance numbers, the average attendance around the league is 2,873 people per match, totaling up to 74,688. That's less than all three years of the WPS' run.

There's an argument that some of the attendance numbers wouldn't be so bad if there were better stadium locations. The Chicago Red Stars play in a stadium that is nearly an hour outside of the city by public transportation. The same is true with Sky Blue FC and New York City. It's no coincidence that those two have the second worst and worst average attendance respectively.

So the NWSL is on par with the WPS in terms of attendance once Portland's astronomical numbers are thrown in to the average. Hopefully that trend stays the same through the rest of the season and continues to rise the next few seasons.

The NWSL enjoys advantages that it's predecessors did not in terms of technology. It's easier to get their name out with Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. Also the fact that they offer free, live YouTube streams and full replays of matches can do wonders for exposure. This is where the NWSL has the WPS beat and this is where the NWSL needs to take full advantage if they are to succeed as a league.