It seems that after every Women’s World Cup that the United States Women’s National Team wins (USWNT for short), there will be a boom in the sport.
Millions of people watched the 1999 team win the World Cup at the Rose Bowl, but not a lot changed after the historic win. The United States Soccer Federation just started paying their women and men’s teams equally a few months ago.
Obviously things are not going to change overnight, but after decades of trying to fill stadiums and convincing networks to broadcast games at popular times, it seems that the tides are starting to change for a sport that is one of the most popular in children playing.
The USWNT won their fourth Women’s World Cup title in 2019, and you could absolutely tell that the win brought new fans into the sport. Forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe became overnight celebrities, appearing at the MTV Video Music Awards and being named in TIME’s annual 100 Influential list.
Even the National Women’s Soccer League, the top professional league in the country for women’s soccer, so better investment and expansion since the 2019 World Cup. Three more teams have been added to the league, including the Los Angeles-based team that is full of celebrity investors. Natalie Portman literally owns a professional women’s soccer club.
While investment in the United States has been great, it’s always felt that the rest of the world was a bit lagging. After this year, however, women’s soccer (or in this case, football as it’s known in the rest of the world) has surpassed popularity here at home.
Those familiar with international soccer are well aware of Champions League. It’s a tournament where football clubs all across Europe play for a trophy. The women’s Champions League has existed for years, but with stadiums allowed to be filled again in Europe, the final few games of the tournament set attendance records that even male soccer matches dream about.
Football club Barcelona broke two records earlier this year with attendance. The first was a match up between Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Champions League with a whopping attendance of 91,553 people. Shortly after, 91,648 fans showed up to watch Barcelona play German side Wolfsburg. The pair of games became the highest attended soccer matches of the year in Europe.
A few months later, the Women’s EURO competition took place in England, and the host country made it all the way to the finals against Germany. A sold-out crowd of 87,192 were packed inside Wembley Stadium, breaking a UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) tournament record. The match became the third highest attended soccer match in Europe this year.
The timing could not be more perfect with the next Women’s World Cup happening next summer in Australia and New Zealand, and things certainly aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
The USWNT is heading over to England next month to play the reigning European Champions at Wembley Stadium, and tickets sold out as soon as they went on sale.
Records are also being broken here in the United States. In the NWSL, an attendance record will be set on Saturday’s match between San Diego Wave FC and Angel City FC.
The San Diego Wave are playing their first game in their brand new stadium and tickets sold out weeks ago. The club said they are expecting 32,000 fans to show up, which will break the single-game attendance record of 25,218 set by the Portland Thorns in 2019.
What is even better is that San Diego and Angel City are brand new teams to the league this year. The old saying of “if you build it, they will come” has never been more true in this situation.
There is a line of thinking that the reason women’s sports are not popular is because no one wants to go to the games or watch them on TV. If no one shows up, tickets aren’t sold and then the teams can’t exist, but these myths are being proven wrong now more than ever.
It just goes to show that with proper investment and these athletes being treated as equally as their male counterparts, fans will show up and tune in to watch.