Several years ago, LaLiga, one of the most recognizable sports leagues in the world, made a decision to seriously invest in growing women’s soccer. Last month, in an effort to promote the game, LaLiga teamed up with National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) players for a tactical challenge to raise awareness about the sport and its athletes.
The challenge, which encouraged players to juggle a soccer ball while traveling between two disks 30 feet apart, was coordinated by LaLiga and Yael Averbuch, a former U.S. Women’s National Team member who plays for the NSWL’s Seattle Reign FC.
“[Averbuch] was very excited with the challenge from the beginning and she helped put it together and helped us a lot to get the different stakeholders onboard, like the NWSL,” explained Rebeca Díaz González, an international business development delegate for LaLiga.
In her post launching the challenge, Averbuch shared a video of her completing the task writing, “Let’s make the first soccer challenge launched by professional women go viral,” encouraging fellow soccer players to #AcceptTheChallenge by uploading a video and tagging three friends.
Many accepted the challenge. Over 70 athletes across 17 different countries, including Levante Femenino’s Charlyn Corral, FC Barcelona’s Toni Duggan, and Lieke Martens, and the US Women’s National Team’s Carli Lloyd and Sidney Leroux participated, sharing videos of themselves on Instagram and tagging their friends and teammates.
“This kind of cross-promotion between leagues and players is a fun initiative that helps people get excited about the game,” explained Díaz González.
Launched primarily on Instagram, the challenge has reached over half a million people and demonstrated the skills of some of the sport’s top players.
This is not the first time LaLiga looked outside its borders to support the growth of women’s soccer.
“We believe in know-how sharing with different leagues to grow the game,” explained Díaz González. “We have an agreement with Dimayor (the governing body for professional soccer in Colombia) and Elitfotboll Dam (the Swedish women’s soccer league and one of the leading women’s leagues in the world) to collaborate on different initiatives together.”
LaLiga currently has 16 teams in Liga Iberdrola, its women’s soccer league. To support the league’s growth, LaLiga has expanded its communication and digital initiatives as they relate to women’s soccer, building out an exclusive microsite on its website and pushing out daily content across all of its digital platforms, which reach more than half a million unique users.
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Liga Iberdrola has become somewhat of a hub for international players, seeing more than 30 international athletes playing across the league. As the women’s soccer grows across Spain, LaLiga is also eying international expansion as well. FC Barcelona, one of its largest clubs, hopes to open a franchise in the NWSL in the coming years.
LaLiga is not alone in its efforts to grow women’s soccer at the professional level. The International Champions Cup announced it would host the first women’s version of the tournament this year, providing an opportunity for European clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain to play in the U.S.
Many international leagues like English FA Women’s Premier League, French Division 1 Féminine, German Allianz Frauen-Bundesliga, and Italian Serie A Women are working to grow the sport as well, attracting top talent and raising awareness of club matches and initiatives through social media.
Additionally, teams like French Division 1 Féminine’s Olympique Lyon, have been supporting the sport by working to provide better conditions for its players, starting with salary. The current Women’s Champions League champions are paid an annual salary of €162,000 (approximately $188,318), which is well above both the league and sport’s average.
The appetite for the sport is certainly there, as demonstrated by the recent Liga MX Femenil final, which attracted 51,211 fans and broke a world record for attendance at a women’s club match.
All of these are encouraging signs for the future of professional women’s soccer and the timing couldn’t be better with the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming up next summer. Through its efforts, LaLiga is showing that with collaborations across leagues, the results can be profound.