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Though it won’t kickoff until September 17, it’s already looking like San Diego’s home match against Cali rival Angel City FC will be massive. Typically, NWSL expansion teams don’t find this type of success in their inaugural seasons, but barring collapse, San Diego will firmly be in a playoff spot while Angel City — currently out of the playoffs but only on goal difference — will be aiming to secure a spot. Oh, and the match will also serve as the inaugural kickoff in San Diego’s new home, SnapDragon Stadium.
Given all of this, it’s a tad sad for the growth of the league and the seasons both teams have had that the match is scheduled to air exclusively on Twitch. Marquee matchups like this, particularly with stakes, lead to explosions of fandom – much of which has been seen in women’s soccer around the world.
The Women’s Super League’s (top division in England) landmark, and now record-breaking, deal with Sky Sports and BBC infused the league with massive audience growth but also increased funding. This year has also seen the most watched women’s EURO’s competition, and the Women’s African Cup of Nations set two attendance records in Morocco. Access in women’s sports is everything, and capitalizing on these matchups by getting as many eyes on a quality production as possible is important.
To the league’s credit, in the aftermath of its annual Board of Governors meeting, NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman stated that in August all cameras will be upgraded, and more investment will be made in the production of matches. While these changes are important, there’s nothing that beats the polish, production and pomp of a dedicated tv show. As much as the future of live sports has shifted to streaming, missing those television moments extinguishes important audience-building opportunities.
Unfortunately, the NWSL does not have a history of high profile production and access on network or cable television. Now that most major men’s soccer leagues in Europe, and now MLS, tuck the bulk of their games behind paid streaming sites, there’s less competition for television slots. NWSL should seek to capitalize on the opportunity, and San Diego vs. Angel City would have been a great place to start.