USWNT post-World Cup

Cellar-Door

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Yeah, there's been a lot written about it in recent weeks.

e.g.:


It's a long and interesting article. I didn't know the current arrangement expired at the end of this year, either. But you couldn't have tailor-made a better moment in time for a big investor to step in. Much like MLS could only really launch after the success of hosting the 1994 World Cup not only proved demand but also itself expanded the market, after two consecutive WWC titles, you're never going to have a more-ready shot at making the first independently successful women's team-sports pro league.
yeah, one thing I wonder about with NWSL, they don't have a presence in some of the most likely soccer cities. No Atlanta team, the "NYC" team plays in Piscataway (basically more than 2 hours one multiple types of public transit), the "Seattle" team plays 1.5 hours away in Tacoma in a ML baseball diamond (they want to build a $300M soccer stadium there, but... why not in Seattle?), no teams in Toronto or Vancouver (probably because of USSF involvement), the DC team plays in MD at a glorified youth facility that holds 4,000 people, and is an hour plus drive or 2 hours (multiple transfers) by public transit, and oh yeah.... NO TEAMS IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING STATE OF CALIFORNIA?

The league is set up in a way that it feels like saving money was the goal at every step, not setting up the teams for success. I mean, if you are worried about not having good attendance, the solution isn't to therefore save money by either putting it somewhere half your fans can't get to for games, or picking stadiums that can't hold your fans (DC last year averaged 3850 attendance in their 4000 seat stadium). I mean honestly, the strongest fanbases for women's soccer have been the gay community and educated, liberal middle class people. Not having teams in basically all of the massive cities that have prominent populations in both groups is so dumb.
 
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Those communities also happen to be the geographical epicenters of NIMBY-ism when you come in wanting to build a venue like that. Not that these teams need to own their own venues, but that should probably be a longer-term goal.

Sky Blue is not "the NYC team", they're a NJ team owned by the literal Governor of NJ. Access to public transit is not a priority for them, though relocation to somewhere ritzier like Bergen County or the Short Hills area might be a help. But an expansion franchise that's a true NYC team, one that would play in (say) MCU Park (7k) or Icahn Stadium (5k) or at the Columbia (17k!) or Fordham (7k) football fields, would be qualitatively different.

Fair points about all the rest though, particularly the DC / MD location which is by all accounts a total joke. It's really not that hard to find a place to lease, even if you don't have an MLS stadium handy. That said, you'd think that the Boston Breakers - playing in a liberal, educated, well-off city, at a soccer-only venue pretty close to downtown, with Rose Lavelle in midfield - could have not just survived but thrived. And yet, they've been the only team to fold. Clearly that's not all that's going on here.
 

Cellar-Door

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Those communities also happen to be the geographical epicenters of NIMBY-ism when you come in wanting to build a venue like that. Not that these teams need to own their own venues, but that should probably be a longer-term goal.

Sky Blue is not "the NYC team", they're a NJ team owned by the literal Governor of NJ. Access to public transit is not a priority for them, though relocation to somewhere ritzier like Bergen County or the Short Hills area might be a help. But an expansion franchise that's a true NYC team, one that would play in (say) MCU Park (7k) or Icahn Stadium (5k) or at the Columbia (17k!) or Fordham (7k) football fields, would be qualitatively different.

Fair points about all the rest though, particularly the DC / MD location which is by all accounts a total joke. It's really not that hard to find a place to lease, even if you don't have an MLS stadium handy. That said, you'd think that the Boston Breakers - playing in a liberal, educated, well-off city, at a soccer-only venue pretty close to downtown, with Rose Lavelle in midfield - could have not just survived but thrived. And yet, they've been the only team to fold. Clearly that's not all that's going on here.
Oh yeah, there are tons of reasons going on, the thing to me is, if the Fed was going to subsidize and control the league they really should have gone for it. They decided they wanted to dip a toe in, but not enough to ensure good locations, good venues, and good ownership with ready cash flow.
Now maybe the hope is that with control going back to the ownership, the active owners who are putting in money not only on facilities but also marketing (Paulson, Hansen etc.) will be aggressive in not only holding higher standards, but agressively pursuing investment from their men's side peers (LAFC?, RB or City?).
 

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11 NWSL regular season games as well as the 3 playoff games will be broadcast on ESPN2/ESPNEWS. Let's see if there's an uptick in interest.

First broadcast will the Orlando Pride (Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Marta) vs Portland Thorns (Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, Emily Sonnett, Christine Sinclair) tomorrow afternoon.
 

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11 NWSL regular season games as well as the 3 playoff games will be broadcast on ESPN2/ESPNEWS. Let's see if there's an uptick in interest.

First broadcast will the Orlando Pride (Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Marta) vs Portland Thorns (Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, Emily Sonnett, Christine Sinclair) tomorrow afternoon.
Will these players actually play?

Right now, NC Courage (Dunn, Mewis, Dahlkemper, McDonald) is playing Seattle Reign (Rapinoe, Long) and none of the USWNT players are in the squads.
 

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Will these players actually play?

Right now, NC Courage (Dunn, Mewis, Dahlkemper, McDonald) is playing Seattle Reign (Rapinoe, Long) and none of the USWNT players are in the squads.
I've been looking around trying to confirm it one way or the other. I can't imagine that ESPN would have agreed to broadcast it without the stars, and they name-dropped them in this story, but I haven't seen any news from either team that players had returned to training, or any social media posts from the players themselves on the subject.

EDIT: Actually, this story seems to show that the Orlando World Cup players aren't expected back until next week. That makes the decision to make tomorrow the first broadcast rather dumb. I suppose it's possible that the non-USWNT players that were knocked out early, like Marta and Sinclair could be there, but that's clearly not where the marketing power of this matchup lies.
 

DJnVa

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Is there a way to get corporations involved? Can the NWSL teams become corporate owned? Would we want that?

P&G just made a nice donation, but what about something bigger? If these companies believe that this should be a thing, maybe that's the way to make it happen.

Teams keep regional/city/state names but the owning corporation gets jersey placement, players paid by corporations, which could then fold in some endorsements of that corporation.
 

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I wouldn't think corporations owning the league would be a good long-term idea, but owning teams, I mean, it worked for many European leagues. Don't see a real problem unless the corporation itself is highly political. But, like, companies such as Avon going and owning a women's team would seem to be quite on-brand without real risk of alienating customers.
 

DJnVa

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Yeah, I'm talking about the teams.

P&G just donated $529,000. That's awesome. But what if they actually owned a team? Obviously there would be A LOT of details to work out, but what if the average salary was about $75,000/player? The MLS is about $117,000 (minimum salary is about $50,000)--I'm a little below that but this is a new league. I know the MLS has a lot of weird rules, but their cap is around $4 million.

A NWSL team rosters, say 30 players--at that average salary you're looking at $2,250,000/season. P&G is based in Cincy, which has an MLS team. Procter and Gamble sponsors/owns the team--the Cincy Gamblers FC or whatever. Say they have Rose Lavelle--she could, in addition to other endorsements, get an endorsement deal with P&G.

I don't know. Seems like there are ways, with all the goodwill around it right now, to make it work. Or at least take a look at it.
 

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They would need to be profitable, or at least have a path to profitability, for a company to consider owning one. I can't imagine they're close at this point given all of the other operating expenses that exist outside of salary.
 

DJnVa

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They would need to be profitable, or at least have a path to profitability, for a company to consider owning one. I can't imagine they're close at this point given all of the other operating expenses that exist outside of salary.
I think that's part of it--there are a lot of folks telling us that it can be, we just need to give them the chance. This is the chance to do that.

If this cannot be profitable, then the equal pay stuff takes on a different light.

I guess what I'm saying is, what would it take? If a company wants to goodwill that will come along with this, then losing a little money shouldn't matter, right? P&G just gave half a million.
 

kenneycb

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A donation is engendering goodwill. Buying a team that has no road to profitability is a shareholder lawsuit, especially for a public company.
 

Vinho Tinto

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I guess what I'm saying is, what would it take?
A strong interest in women's soccer once you remove nationalism that will make an American league elite.

There is going to be increasing competition from European clubs for American players as they increase investment in women's sides. Any investor will need to factor in competing for talent against teams that may have better brands from the jump. What sounds more alluring? Playing for the Portland Thorns or FC Barcelona?

The opportunity to play in cities such as London and Paris will be alluring (Just as playing in a player's home country will be attractive to others). American sports fans have never shown a wide willingness to watch second tier product in large numbers (You could argue college football bucks that). If the best players on the national team are spread around the world, I don't see how a franchise model for an American league stands a chance.
 

DJnVa

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A donation is engendering goodwill. Buying a team that has no road to profitability is a shareholder lawsuit, especially for a public company.
In a roundabout way, that's my point. Does women's professional soccer have a road to profitability here? And if not, what does that do to the discussion everyone has been having?
 

kenneycb

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I don't know if it does but it probably has a better road to sustainable profitability with a non-corporate owner who doesn't have a bunch of shareholders breathing down its neck and can play a longer-term game while letting strategic investments/decisions play their course
 

OCST

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A donation is engendering goodwill. Buying a team that has no road to profitability is a shareholder lawsuit, especially for a public company.
Not if it's a marketing expense.

P&G spent gobs of money making daily radio dramas in the 1920's and '30s so they could do ads. They didn't just sponsor someone's broadcast - they produced the shows themselves, out of their own pocket, and even sometimes owned the studio. Some of these dramas transitioned to television, again as vehicles and delivery systems for barrages of ads for P&G products. Again, P&G actually produced the shows themselves.

Although astronomically expensive as a budget line item, these "soap operas" were wildly successful as marketing tools.


I walked through the beginning of the parade route last Monday. There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people, mostly girls, young women, and families, mostly upscale, mostly decked out in kits, all having a great time and going completely batshit.

Owning a team for $3-4M net spend a year to get access to that audience could be a shrewd way to target an extremely valuable group of consumers. That assumes some kind of decent TV package, but if several large advertisers got together it could be done. Any income off the gate, etc. would just be a bonus.
 

kenneycb

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Something tells me classifying team ownership as Marketing Expense isn’t GAAP compliant. Of course it’s de minimis for most large corporations but the high profile nature of it would certainly raise questions. The infrastructure just isn’t there at this point to make sense for corporate ownership.
 

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Taking a strategic loss on the P&L, on the basis of an equity investment that isn't meant to show a profit, but rather is meant to pay off in other less-easily-attributable ways, is certainly kosher. Ever heard of a loss leader? Doesn't make it automatically a good business decision, but it could be, and there's no rule against it, just some disclosures that would be atypical (e.g. liabilities for team debts, etc).
 

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I walked through the beginning of the parade route last Monday. There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people, mostly girls, young women, and families, mostly upscale, mostly decked out in kits, all having a great time and going completely batshit.

Owning a team for $3-4M net spend a year to get access to that audience could be a shrewd way to target an extremely valuable group of consumers. That assumes some kind of decent TV package, but if several large advertisers got together it could be done. Any income off the gate, etc. would just be a bonus.
What percentage of that audience do you really get access to by running a club team, though? The USWNT is a massively successful, well-known and beloved brand. The North Carolina Courage aren't.

I have a really hard time picturing it being anything more than a fringe sport, although I'd love to be proven wrong. The American sports calendar is packed year-round., and there are already several other sports what are wildly popular once every 4 years, like swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, etc. but only a small percentage of people who watch those sports during the Olympics pay attention the other 3 years.

The WNBA benefits from the NBA's ability to twist the arm of ESPN and their other partners to ensure coverage above the level that the attendance and ratings warrant. Even if the NWSL was more closely aligned with MLS, they wouldn't get the same benefit because MLS can barely get coverage for themselves, much less the women's game.

I honestly don't know the answers, and I really wonder if the fight for equal pay will result in the WNT players making more per game but the league funding being cut or eliminated. In truth, that might not be the worst thing, because I think the only real chance of success at this point in time would be for all of the world's best players to be in a single league, and that may be better placed in Europe than the US.
 
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OCST

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Secret deodorant is getting in on the fight for equal pay in a big way.

On Sunday, July 14, the Proctor & Gamble-owned deodorant brand took out a full-page ad in The New York Timesto announce a donation of $529,000 to help close the pay gap between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. This symbolically represents $23,000 donated for each of the 23 players that won the World Cup just over a week ago.
 

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I have a really hard time picturing it being anything more than a fringe sport, although I'd love to be proven wrong. The American sports calendar is packed year-round., and there are already several other sports what are wildly popular once every 4 years, like swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, etc. but only a small percentage of people who watch those sports during the Olympics pay attention the other 3 years.
People said the same about MLS back in the mid to late 90s, too. And while they have plenty of lingering problems, average attendance meaningfully and consistently above 20k / game across nearly 400 games means it's fought its way to the big leagues, and our nomenclature of "big 4 sports leagues" is what's behind the times at this point.

This might be more of a standalone thread in General Sports, but I've spent some time recently looking in depth at fringe pro leagues in the country as part of other commitments I have, and like any business venture there are a few big successes, a lot of failures, and rampant survivorship bias by anyone on the outside looking at it in retrospect. If you look at pro lacrosse leagues, for Box lacrosse the NLL is largely successful and stable but at ~9k/game with 10 teams, after 30 years of operation - but there have also been no fewer than 10 failed attempts at starting one. For Field lacrosse, MLL is barely hanging on, with a lot of team turnover, despite 15+ years of operation, and it follows on several failed attempts themselves. So I don't want to overstate that counterpoint about MLS, because the odds of entrepreneurial success are always low. And as we all know, the NWSL is the USSF's third attempt at a women's league.

As far as I can tell, the problem isn't the sport, it's that it's a women's league. There are simply no precedents for a successful women's league for a team sport with city-based teams. You're looking instead to individual sports with a traveling tournament model - the WTA, LPGA and things like Beach Volleyball. There are still prevailing attitudes from a surprising share of men who view it as a minor league of sorts, a sideshow, and aren't interested in watching on a regular basis. So, frankly, the NWSL and USWNT aligning themselves with general feminist and LGBTQ movements / groups is a savvy play, because it may be the only way they get to critical mass. That, and any sort of decent streaming or TV access for serendipitous discovery (the inept way in which they've gone about that is its own conversation).

The WNBA is closer than the NWSL to stability, partly because their attendance figures are fairly stable at around 7-8k / game league-wide. But it also hasn't grown attendance-wise in the last decade (with NY's team plummeting 75% to last due to a move from MSG to White Plains), and prior to 2010 saw a number of new teams fold. Attendance is "real" in a way that TV ratings might not be (as you point out). But the most popular women's basketball team in the country remains the Connecticut Huskies.

The lesson I take from the WNBA's struggles is actually this: the venue they play in, and the year-to-year stability of that venue, is absolutely crucial in terms of building a fan base. Move around a lot, or be located in some weirdass place, and you're going to fuck yourself. Not for nothing do top men's pro leagues all want to own their own venue - failure to do so means they are the mercy of whimsical landlords who seem to come up with all sorts of fucked up reasons for why they need to either double your rent, deny you your preferred match dates, or turf you out entirely without much notice. Add to that usual mayhem the extra factor of a bunch of old white dudes faced with a possible-successful women's team and the seeming extra propensity of them to be cruel or careless towards them, and it's simply a strategic imperative for NWSL to get good venues. Venues ideally part- or all-owned by the teams, or at very worst with very long-lasting leases with explicit date commitments. I believe if they can take care of that, the other strategic choices they've made will have a real chance of paying off.

The easiest bootstrap to that position, of course, is to be co-owned by an MLS or USL team that will let them use their venue, or at least their practice venue, on a consistent and long-term basis. We could break down the situation team-by-team, but I'm willing to bet the team owners have had this at the very top of their war-room whiteboards for a long time and it's more difficult than I realize for either financial reasons or considerations that I don't fully understand. But it's also true that it's not particularly hard to find venues with capacity of 7-10k. If I can name half a dozen within easy public transport range in the most expensive and densely-packed city in the country, I'm willing to bet it's a pretty solvable problem in most top-30 metro areas.

I honestly don't know the answers, and I really wonder if the fight for equal pay will result in the WNT players making more per game but the league funding being cut or eliminated. In truth, that might not be the worst thing, because I think the only real chance of success at this point in time would be for all of the world's best players to be in a single league, and that may be better placed in Europe than the US.
I disagree with this. We have a huge, staggering advantage conferred on us in terms of talent due almost entirely to Title IX. Two generations in, that gives us not just higher-end talent (more people making up the bell curve = the top handful at the end of the bell curve are that much farther from the median), but also more women who've played and retain an interest in playing, retain an interest in watching, in having their kids watch, etc. That advantage more than makes up for the relative poverty of our pro men's soccer teams (vs Europe). Concentrating talent in a single league would just give a better experience to the existing fans, I don't think it's going to bring in meaningfully more incremental fans (I mean, articulate to yourself the mentality that would swing a fence-sitter who's only mildly interested, to start attending matches - it's a stretch, no?). No, I think what's best for women's soccer is to have (1) tighter partnerships or co-ownership with MLS / USL clubs, (2) venue stability, and (3) some credible degree of digital marketing and TV production.

That third one is key, and nobody's gotten it right yet. The good news there is, there are a ton of second-tier broadcasters that can bring that credible production to life. My sport-of-passion, ultimate, broadcasts through Stadium, a streaming subscription service. You've got CP's corporate overlords DAZN trying to make sports inroads in the US. It doesn't take a ton of imagination, and it doesn't take ESPN-quality production. But you need to market those rights professionally, and do so to optimize for reach moreso than squeezing every last dollar out of it. Long-term stability is in attendance figures, and digital access is an input to that, not separate / adjacent to that.

Someone’s following my SoSH posts...

 

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The next Women's World Cup will be expanded to 32 teams. While I do like getting rid of 3rd place teams qualifying out of a group, this may lead to a few more USA-Thailand scores in the early part of the next couple tournaments.

The next host will be chosen in May of 2020, so everyone in the bidding will have to adjust their proposals for the additional games.
 

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Fantastic news on both counts. Hoping for a Morgan or Pugh 6 goal game next year.
 

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They're on their "victory tour" right now, as we speak, playing South Korea on FS1. 0-0 as we approach halftime. It's a great swap-over for Thursday Night NFL, and has been a pretty good match on its own right.

Korea's giving it everything they've got defensively - pulling jerseys, tactical fouls. You wouldn't know it's a friendly, this looks personal. Their midfield has some class, too - one of them plays for Chelsea, another for West Ham, and a forward for Man City, all three old veterans.
 
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The Jill Ellis era ends with a 1-1 draw with S. Korea. In the 4th minute of stoppage time Carli Lloyd put in what should have been a winner but it was wrongly ruled out for offside. The US had one final chance to win it but the Korean keeper tipped Mal Pugh's header onto the crossbar and it bounced clear.

The draw ends a 17 game winning streak. Ellis retires with 106 wins (one more than Tony DiCicco) and led the side to 2 World Cup titles and an Olympic Gold Medal.
 

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Michael Jordan punched multiple teammates in the face and used his Hall of Fame speech to air out his lifetime of grievances.

He's a well established dickhead, but she can Be Like Mike if she wants to.
 

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Alex Morgan announced on IG that she's expecting a daughter in April.
 

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Panama is not good at women's soccer.

The US is playing at about half speed and are up 7-0. A lawn chair could be playing keeper for the US now, I don't think Panama have a touch in the box, much less a shot.

And as I type...8-0.
 

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It's not over 'til it's over, but Grant Wahl says Jay Berhalter is not a CEO candidate at this point. That would be good news. There's not just the conflict of interest angle with Gregg; he also seems genuinely unpopular with the USSF rank-and-file.

View: https://twitter.com/GrantWahl/status/1225115943354933254
CBS picking up NWSL rights is great. I hope they put some effort into advertising the league. From the article:

The NWSL broadcast video rights in the U.S. will be going to CBS Sports, SI has confirmed. (Dan Lauletta of The Equalizer first reported CBS was likely to get them.) An official announcement is expected soon. More than a dozen NWSL games are expected to be shown on a CBS linear platform this year, including on CBS’s main over-the-air channel, with out-of-market NWSL games expected to be available on CBS All Access, a pay streaming site.
 

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Lavelle scores in the 5th minute against Mexico, with the US trying to clinch qualification for the Olympics.
 

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I think the Horan pass was the hardest one to get right of the lot, but Press's footwork was SO fast there, it's like when a player takes something early on the outside of their foot, just unexpected.