Being a fan of women’s soccer is a bit like being a fan of quality television like Community
or quality music like Metric. You see how smart people react when they’re exposed to it, and you don’t understand why billionaires aren’t lining up to back it while fans clamor for more.
The television industry has actually done better than most at continuing to produce niche content. Take the 20th through 40th shows in the weekly Nielsen ratings and move them back to 1982, and most of them would be summarily canceled. A “hit” on cable draws perhaps a couple million people. By most demographic trends, local TV news should be dead, and yet it’s expanding so that workaholics who rise at 4:30 a.m. can get a quick roundup of whatever happened since they went to sleep.
The sports industry is a little more erratic. The USA has two full-time soccer channels in addition to regular offerings on various other networks in a couple of different languages. And yet we aren’t able to maintain the diversity of sports that Europe sees — handball leagues, volleyball leagues, water polo leagues, the bulk of winter sports seasons, the bulk of other Olympic sports seasons, and women’s sports. The USA has the top women’s soccer league in the world, but for how much longer?
Simply saying “There’s no market for it” is a rather tired argument. It’s really a matter of striking a balance and finding the right business model. Men’s soccer finally found it, even though it took several years of staggering losses. No one could’ve blamed MLS for shutting down in 2002. What’s the right way forward for women’s soccer?
Here’s some of the debate over the past 24 hours:
SANCTIONING WITH FIVE TEAMS
I hadn’t thought about this until I saw it at BigSoccer
, but the old NASL once had five teams, several years before the boom. I’m checking with historian Roger Allaway to make sure, but it seems that league was indeed sanctioned. It was the product of a 1968 merger
between the sanctioned USA and unsanctioned NPSL.
The NASL went on to become something big before collapsing under its own weight. So why shouldn’t U.S. Soccer give WPS the same opportunity?
NATIONAL TEAM PLAYERS SPEAK OUT
Several players from the 2011 U.S. team had taken to Twitter to express support for the league, and Becky Sauerbrunn was among the first to sign a petition organized by Western New York president/player Alex Sahlen. Some fans had wondered when Abby Wambach would speak, and they got their answer last night: