We end 2019 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #2: The rise of the American professional women’s game.
After dominating 2019 Women’s World Cup play, the U.S. Women’s National Team became a major force on the U.S. sporting scene, providing a boost to the American pro soccer scene and an inspiration to athletes across the globe.
That the USWNT won the World Cup wasn’t a surprise; what gained the attention of fans was the way in which the team won with such confidence and swagger. After arriving home to a classic New York City ticker tape parade, team leader Megan Rapinoe predicted continued success for the team and the sport:
“It was like, Wow,” says Rapinoe, recalling not only the heady days after the victory but also the conversations with grateful strangers for months afterward. “We’re in a movement, not a moment.”
An immediate result of the World Cup victory: another rise for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The NWSL had already reached stability, with 2018 attendance up 19 percent year over year and 2019 beginning with a slate of solid teams and more solid attendance gains. But the post-World Cup NWSL saw an even bigger boost, with several teams moving matches from smaller community venues to MLS stadiums and several teams setting single-game attendance records. In the end, every NWSL club saw an attendance rise year over year, with the circuit notching a 22 percent boost year over year. We’ll see more NWSL teams play more matches in MLS stadiums, with the league expanding into a new Louisville stadium in 2021 as well, and interest in potential Atlanta and Indianapolis teams. Not bad for a league that was predicted to fold by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.
One 2019 battle that will continue into the New Year: a gender-discrimination lawsuit filed by members of the U.S. women’s national team and the United States Soccer Federation, saying that women are paid less than their male counterparts. That case has been winding its way through U.S. District Court in California, with a court date set for May 5, 2020.
Image of NWSL action courtesy Chicago Red Stars.
Here’s the rest of our Top Ten of 2019: