Time to take a look at the attendance figures for the two most visible women’s soccer leagues, the NWSL and the W-League. The NWSL, a USSF-backed pro circuit, is the third (and possibly final) attempt to establish a fully-professional women’s league on these shores. The W-League has been under the United Soccer Leagues’ umbrella since its establishment in 1995. Here are the latest figures for both leagues through Sunday’s games. (As always, additions or corrections are more than welcome.)
|Chicago Red Stars||5||21,265||4,253||1,450||15,743||1,039|
|FC Kansas City||9||18,122||2,014||1,797||3,107||1,457|
|Sky Blue FC||8||11,794||1,474||1,253||2,983||582|
|Washington Spirit Res.||4||6,570||1,643||749||4,598||474|
|Santa Clarita Blue Heat||5||3,281||656||733||991||199|
|Charlotte Lady Eagles||2||1,146||573||573||738||408|
|LI Rough Riders||5||2,668||534||425||868||308|
|New Jersey Wildcats||4||1,032||258||268||358||138|
|Dayton Dutch Lions||4||819||205||196||275||152|
|Braddock RS Elite||3||609||203||191||252||166|
|Sedona FC Strikers||3||550||183||200||250||100|
|New York Magic||5||911||182||126||316||110|
|North Jersey Valkyries||3||512||171||115||297||100|
|Carolina Elite Cobras||4||636||159||155||251||76|
|Quebec Dynamo ARSQ||5||776||155||135||277||83|
|Bay Area Breeze||4||602||151||160||183||100|
|K-W United FC||2||283||142||142||156||127|
|Toronto Lady Lynx||5||700||140||100||300||50|
|Gulf Coast Texans||3||348||116||117||121||110|
- Let’s get this out of the way up front, okay? The NWSL isn’t working. It’s not going to work. In Portland it works fine. In Houston it seems to work pretty well. Everywhere else? No, it’s not working. Forty seven percent of all the people who have gone to NWSL games this year have done so in those two cities. Now, two anchor tenants is at least one more than most women’s soccer leagues have been able to hang their hats on, historically, but the other clubs don’t show many signs of actually mattering to their communities. The first year was a write-off, because the league came together so quickly. But here we are now in Year Two, and there hasn’t been much progress. We will have a Women’s World Cup next year, which will spur interest in the US Women’s National Team, and there may be some spillover into the NWSL post-July 5, 2015. But then what? Mexico and Canada are contributing to funding the salaries of their national team players in this league (as is USSF, obviously), but after the tournament in Canada next year, it’s four long years until the next one. Will they have the stomach to do it again?
- Except for Chicago (up 176% because its home opener was a doubleheader with the Fire) and Seattle (up 79% from last year’s pretty bad numbers), every second-year team in the league is showing a year-over-year decrease in average attendance. Yes, even Portland, though it’s only three percent and nothing to worry about. Washington (-11%), Sky Blue FC (-13%), Boston (-15%) and Western New York (-21%) are all causes for concern, but Kansas City’s drop (they’re off 56%) is largely because they moved into a much smaller (though more appropriate from a soccer standpoint) venue this year. The league as a whole is off 10% from its 66-game total a year ago. And without Portland, the league average is currently 2,888 and projects out to 3,024 (it was 2,977 without the Thorns in 2013). With Portland included, the league projects (if everyone holds their current averages) to 4,068, a slight drop from last year’s 4,270.
- Eighteen of the top twenty crowds in the NWSL’s short history have been in Portland (no surprise). The largest non-Portland crowd was the 15,743 for Chicago’s (doubleheader) home opener and the only other crowd to break 9k was the 9,129 who turned up in Rochester for last year’s championship match.
- Conversely, the four lowest crowds in league history have all happened this season, all at Sky Blue FC and all on Wednesdays. The 582 announced for the April 30 match between Seattle and Sky Blue is the NWSL’s nadir to this point.
- Things are down in the amateur W-League as well, with a 347 average (with 13 data points missing) through last night’s games. Only Washington (with a doubleheader crowd of 4,598 for its home opener) is averaging over 1,000 a game. In fact, there have only been three four-digit crowds in the league this season (the others coming to see the Colorado Pride and Atlanta Silverbacks). The W-League used to do much better than this, but it appears as though very few teams attempt to actually market themselves as viable soccer clubs anymore.