In front of a packed crowd of supporters at the iconic Rose Bowl, the United States women’s national team handily defeated the Republic of Ireland in their first contest since the World Cup final. Aside from their continued dominance, the USWNT Victory Tour match showed us that it’s about damn time that Los Angeles receives an NWSL franchise.
Momentum is a powerful thing.
Right now, there’s a wave of momentum behind women’s soccer that has it growing at a rate faster than we have ever seen. This wave caused 14.3 million Americans to watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in France last July (22 percent higher than the FIFA Men’s World Cup final one year prior). It has boosted NWSL attendance by 70 percent in the month since the USWNT victory, with six out of nine clubs selling out their stadiums in July. On top of all of that, the conversation of equal pay continues to march forward, gaining more support by the day.
The momentous wave continued to swell last Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California as the reigning World Cup champs took on the Republic of Ireland in the first match of the USWNT Victory Tour. The crowd of 37,040 screaming fans cheered as the U.S. cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Listening to the faithful supporters serenade their favorite players got us thinking — with all this momentum, how is there not an NWSL franchise in the City of Angels?
A marriage between the NWSL and Los Angeles is a relationship that could be seen as a perfect match. LA is known as being one of the top cities, if not the top city, when it comes to setting the standard for culture and trends throughout the nation. Through arts, food, fashion, and sports, LA sets trends that reverberate across the country and the world. Therefore, if there was one city that could take the momentum already built around women’s soccer and push it even further, it would be Los Angeles.
USWNT and Portland Thorns defender Emily Sonnett is ready for the NWSL to come to LA.
“In LA!?” Sonnett exclaimed. “I think the market here is incredible. The fans here are incredible. It would be very, very cool.”
Forward Jessica McDonald, whose club duties lie with the North Carolina Courage, also shared similar thoughts about the NWSL’s potential future in LA.
“It would be amazing for the NWSL and for women’s soccer in general,” McDonald stated. “This is such a big city, there are so many people here, and the fan base would probably be absolutely phenomenal. It’s just something we need in order to improve and expand the women’s league.”
McDonald spoke briefly on the fan base, and she was absolutely right. If you could pick one new city to plant an NWSL franchise, solely based on fan support, Los Angeles would have to be at the top, potentially alongside Atlanta. With two greater LA area franchises in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS, it only makes sense that the NWSL joins the party, and there’s no better time than now.
It’s no secret that LA harbors two of MLS’ most passionate fan bases in LA Galaxy and LAFC. Both are in the top 10 ranks for attendance, displaying the hunger for soccer in the city.
Not even two years into its existence and LAFC’s 3252 has cemented itself as one of the most passionate supporters’ groups in the nation. Back in May, the 3252 held what they called “Women’s Week,” a celebration of women in sports and the community, which culminated with a team of women commanding the 3252 as LAFC took on FC Dallas. From a supporters perspective, there’s no question LA is more than ready to welcome an NWSL club.
The rising attendance of NWSL matches indicates room for even more growth, and LA represents a glaringly open market the league can capitalize on. The LA Galaxy even already have their own women’s team, who compete in UWS, a second division pro-am league similar to the WPSL. LA Galaxy Orange County recently took home the UWS championship, and in a perfect world that we don’t live in, they’d be promoted to the NWSL.
While it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the recent jump in popularity of the NWSL, there will always be a hunger for more, from both a player and fan standpoint. There’s always risk involved with adding an expansion team, but if we’re serious about pushing the game forward, the time to add an LA franchise is now.
“I just think we need to be smart with the markets,” USWNT and Sky Blue FC forward Carli Lloyd said. “We are still a little behind on the NWSL front so we just need to keep getting the word out.”
Momentum is a powerful thing. But in today’s culture it can die quickly. Flashes in the pan have become an almost everyday occurrence as attention spans continue to decrease. However, the few movements that do last are the ones that take advantage of the opportunities that the momentum behind them present.
For the NWSL, that opportunity is Los Angeles.
Photography by Austin Boaman.