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Sunday, July 14, 2024

NWSL Expansion and Viewership Surge Driving a Record Season

  • Attendance and viewership are up big halfway through the season.
  • More than one million fans have already attended games.
Lucas Boland-USA TODAY Sports

The NWSL’s two expansion teams and new $240 million media-rights deals are already paying off big-time for the fast-growing women’s soccer league. Halfway through the season, the NWSL is on pace to shatter records around attendance and viewership.

Heading into Week 14, the NWSL has already crossed the one million mark for total match attendance, representing the fastest journey to that number in a single season. Last year, the league surpassed one million fans at games after Week 18. This year, the NWSL expanded to 14 franchises, with both new clubs—Bay FC and the Utah Royals—sharing stadiums with their MLS counterparts that have capacity for around 20,000 fans each. NWSL teams are also playing 26 matches each this season, up from 22 last year, so the final attendance metrics will be boosted by that change, too.

Also helping attendance metrics are new frontiers for the NWSL, like hosting a game at Wrigley Field that drew more than 35,000 fans.

Time to Be Seen

With prime broadcast and streaming exposure on ESPN, CBS, Amazon, and Scripps Sports—which are paying a collective $60 million annually for the league’s media rights—the NWSL has seen a 95% increase in total viewership, compared to the first 13 weeks of the 2023 season. The NWSL is also airing 69 matches this season on its free streaming service, so opportunity remains to further cash in on the sale of media rights.

As happy as the NWSL may be with this season’s growth, there is likely more on the way. A Boston expansion team will enter the league in 2026, and commissioner Jessica Berman has made it clear she wants a 16th team launching at the same time.

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