NWSL Looks to Continue Momentum with Regionalized Fall Series

    • July’s Challenge Cup saw breakout viewership numbers for games televised on CBS.
    • For the fall series, teams will form three, three-team pods.

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After the breakout success of the Challenge Cup tournament in July, the National Women’s Soccer League will look to continue the momentum with a series beginning Sept. 5.

The fall series will include 18 matches over the course of seven weeks. Teams will be split into three, three-team pods, and those within each pod will only play one another to minimize travel. 

The full format and schedule for the NWSL fall series will be released in the next week, the league said. The west pod includes OL Reign, Portland Thorns FC and Utah Royals FC; the northeast pod includes Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC and Washington Spirit; and the south pod includes North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, and Houston Dash.

“Building on the success of this summer’s Challenge Cup, I am so excited to smartly and safely take this next step on the NWSL’s journey,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said. “The women of the NWSL want to compete and we’ve certainly heard from our fans all over the world looking for more action this year. I’d like to thank the NWSL Player’s Association for their constant collaboration, as well as CBS for continuing to invest in our league’s growth and this unprecedented opportunity to showcase the NWSL to a world-wide audience, week-in, week-out.”

When the fall series gets underway, CBS Television Network will air a NWSL game of the week every Saturday in September, and on CBS Sports Network three Saturdays in October. CBS All Access will exclusively stream four games in September.

NWSL TV ratings for the Challenge Cup blew away previous records for both domestic and international broadcasts after inking new rights deals with CBS and Twitch. 

The final match of the tournament averaged 653,000 viewers on CBS, breaking the league’s previous record of 572,000, which was set by the Challenge Cup opener. Prior to the Challenge Cup, the league’s record for a broadcast was 190,000 viewers, from a match in 2014. 

The league also saw success around its Twitch streams, with games averaging around 7,000 viewers and maxing out at 18,505 domestically. 

As noted by The Philly Inquirer, NWSL documents appear to show that fans may be allowed at some games, but will not be allowed closer to the field than row eight of the stands. 

Since the Challenge Cup, a Los Angeles expansion team has been announced as the league’s 11th member, set to join in 2022, and another team in Sacramento is reportedly close.