Amandine Henry the reason for NWSL growth?

The National Women’s Soccer League started four years ago and now it’s the most successful women’s soccer league in United States history. It has the chance to be even greater than the US Soccer Federation could have ever imagined.

The NWSL is the third attempt for a women’s soccer league in the US and the other two failed to make it past the three-year mark. The USSF had only committed to funding the league for three years after the failures of the first two and now the NWSL has exceeded expectations.

It all started after the USWNT turned heads at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. All eyes were on this dominant team, so come the 2012 Olympics, it needed a place to play when they weren’t on international duty. Thus the NWSL was born.

The eight-team league has since expanded to ten teams and started with only the big names of CONCACAF teams, like USWNT players Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach and Canada’s Christine Sinclair, but now it’s expanded its international growth with Australian players, Japanese, Brazilian, Spanish, German, and most recently, French.

Amandine Henry in match against Orlando Pride | Photo: Portland Thorns FC

French international Amandine Henry is the most recent big-name signing of the NWSL. She played for the 2016 Champions League winning French club Olympique Lyonnais before signing for the Portland Thorns. Henry is one of the best players in the world having won the Silver Ball in the 2015 Women’s World Cup last year only behind Carli Lloyd, was named to the inaugural FIFPro Women’s World XI, and has won three Champions League titles and eight French league titles. Oh, and she’s only 26-years-old.

NWSL joining world's best

Henry is in her prime and could have chosen any club in any league in the world, but she chose the NWSL. She could have stayed with the European champions, but she left. Why is that? Is the NWSL becoming one of the world’s best women’s soccer leagues? Sure. Was the addition of Henry to the league proof that it’s one of the best? No.

The world’s best players have been playing in the league since it’s inception. World-record international goal-scorer Wambach played, current FIFA Player of the Year Lloyd has been playing since the inception, and Morgan, Hope Solo, and the majority of the world’s best USWNT play and have played since the start.

The real kicker to show that the league has been flourishing was the addition of Nadine Angerer in the 2014 season after she was awarded World Player of the Year in 2013.

Attendance has gone up since the inception and it’s not just the Thorns with the major crowds. The Orlando Pride broke the attendance record this year and while most teams don’t have as high a capacity as the Pride and Thorns stadiums, the Washington Spirit have sold out their stadium and other teams have had higher attendance than most female European club matches in the last few years.

Yes, Henry is a major sign that the NWSL is growing to be one of the best in the world. No, she is not the only reason that it is becoming the best. Henry is proof that the growth and success of the league are real, but the league was growing towards being one of the best well before she came along.