U.S. women's soccer league looks to build on World Cup win

Fri Aug 14, 2015 7:23pm EDT
 
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five weeks after leading the United States to a stirring World Cup championship, Carli Lloyd is convinced Americans are finally ready to embrace women's professional soccer for the long run.

The North American Soccer League has enjoyed a significant attendance bump since the title and Lloyd said the post-World Cup euphoria feels "extremely different" this time around.

"We've built a legacy that will carry on forever," Lloyd, who scored three goals in a 5-2 triumph over Japan in the World Cup final, told Reuters in an interview. "That's what's so cool about it. The excitement didn't just last a couple days."

The nine-team NWSL, in its third year of existence, averaged about 4,400 fans prior to the World Cup final but nearly 5,800 since the July 5 match in Vancouver, Canada. There was not one sell-out prior to the World Cup but 13 since.

It's not like the sport hasn't seen this before in the United States.

Attendance at U.S. soccer leagues generally rises following a World Cup -- men or women -- when fans are excited but then wanes within a few weeks when soccer falls back into second-tier existence in the American sporting landscape.

Therein lies the task at hand for NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush, a former managing director of the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, the top U.S. men's league. His goal is to make the recent attendance gains "the new normal, and not just a bump."

"We want to take this opportunity to hold ourselves to a different expectation," he said. "We're seeing now what's possible and that's exciting. We can hold ourselves accountable to different metrics, a different story."   Continued...

 
U.S. women's soccer player Megan Rapinoe (C) holds the Wold Cup trophy as she rides a float with team mate Carli Lloyd (L) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (back R) during the ticker tape parade up Broadway in lower Manhattan to celebrate their World Cup final win over Japan in New York, July 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Segar -