The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and FOX Sports announced today a one-year agreement to telecast six NWSL games for the second consecutive season in 2016. The agreement means that Fox Sports 1 will air three regular-season matches and all playoff games. As part of the package, the games will also live on FOX Soccer 2Go, FOX Sports GO and FOXSportsGO.com.
"We are very pleased to once again partner with FOX Sports, who continue to demonstrate their outstanding support of our league and women's soccer," NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. "It is extremely important for the development of the league for our fans to have access to games on national television, especially our playoffs and championship match."
Fox will begin airing the games immediately following the Summer Olympics in Rio.
"We are thrilled to embark on our second year of NWSL coverage, following an incredible FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015," said David Nathanson, FOX Sports' Head of Business Operations. "This partnership showcases our continuing support of women's soccer and the sport's top players."
The Slate of Games
Fox’s coverage will begin on Wednesday, September 7th when the Chicago Red Stars host two time defending champion FC Kansas City. The game is a rematch of the NWSL semifinal from last year and features two of the premiere teams in the league. Chicago is led by USWNT members Christen Press and the league’s best defender, Julie Johnston. Kansas City counters with Heather O’Reilly and defender Becky Sauerbrunn. Chicago is the only team with a winning record against the champs going 4-3-2 in their three-year history.
On Sunday, September 11th, Samantha Mewis leads the young and rebuilding Western New York Flash on the road against a retooled Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon. The new look Thorns include acquisitions Lindsey Horan, Meghan Klingenberg, Nadia Nadim as well as defender Emily Sonnett - the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. Those four have been added to an already strong core group of Christine Sinclair, Tobin Heath and Allie Long.
The regular season broadcast schedule will wrap up Sunday, Sept. 25 with a showdown between the Houston Dash and Seattle Reign FC at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Seattle goalkeeper Hope Solo and the two-time defending NWSL Shield winners will take on the lethal Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian. The Reign have never lost to the Dash - posting a 5-0-0 record all-time against Houston.
Nice, but not Enough
While the deal is good exposure for the NWSL, it is simply not enough to help with the growth of the league. Three games are just a tiny blip on the sports broadcast scene. During a time when only MLB (And MLS) have the spotlight, it is a perfect moment for FOX to showcase the budding league and its many star players. A slate of ten regular season games would have been a much better and attractive package as FOX could have an NWSL game of the week with a pregame show of the previous weeks’ matchups and a player of the week spotlight. The time is ripe to hype the NWSL as the interest in women’s soccer remains high and will continue to do so should the US bring home Olympic Gold as they are favored to do. No league can survive without a TV package and while the deal is a decent start, as usual, the women’s game is getting the short end of the stick.