New investors flood the NWSL during the offseason.
First, OL Groupe purchased a majority stake in the then Reign FC. Next, Angel City FC announced a star-studded ownership group. Since then, Washington, Chicago, and North Carolina bolstered their ownership ranks, while Louisville entered the league, and Kansas City bought in as a new franchise to re-locate Utah. Fans witnessed the influence of this cash influx during the 2020 Challenge Cup when OL Reign flew via private jet to Montana to prepare for the tournament due to strict COVID-19 guidelines in the state of Washington.
Spending has already been apparent this preseason with multiple teams training for several weeks in Florida. Without increasing ownership, Sky Blue FC owners increased investment to launch a rebrand, becoming NJ/NY Gotham FC with a sleek, dark Statue of Liberty-inspired logo embracing both New York and New Jersey. Investment continues with NWSL teams sporting some of the best jerseys in the world in attempt to draw fan attention to the clubs, most recently featuring a “space wars” showdown between the Pride and the Dash. Teams inadvertently use the social media accounts of their players to advertise the increased standard of team-provided housing and training conditions.
Although Lynn Williams instead recently accepted a US allocated contract, the Courage previously extended her and Debinha to sizeable contracts using allocation money, and Abby Erceg and Denise O’Sullivan recently signed undisclosed but presumably similar contracts. USWNT regulars Crystal Dunn and Lindsey Horan recently became the first players ever to decline a US allocated contract because the Thorns extended superior offers using allocation money.
Between fans starved for games and the impact of high profile investors in the league, many clubs reported that reduced capacity ticket sales have already sold out for several games. For broadcast quality, the 2021 Challenge Cup may not yet demonstrate the full impact of recent investing, but with more time for preparation, expect a more refined and professional product compared to the Challenge Cup and Fall Series of 2020. The current broadcast deal with CBS and Twitch extends through the 2022 season. Because the FA WSL in England recently signed a blockbuster deal to broadcast matches, the NWSL can use that deal as leverage to ensure their next deal lights up the league.
By Tim Antoniewicz