By Paul Kennedy
There should be little doubt who is the biggest draw in the new NWSL.
Alex Morgan's Portland Thorns drew a crowd of 16,479 fans at Jeld-Wen Field for their home opener, while all three Portland games on the road have been sellouts.
Portland drew an overflow crowd of 5,011 fans at Maryland SoccerPlex for their 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit on Saturday.
The Spirit drew crowds of 4,569 and 3,102 for its first two home games.
“We could not have asked for a better first three games,” Spirit owner Bill Lynch told the Washington Post.
In a preseason letter to fans, Lynch said the Spirit needed an average of 3,000 for financial sustainability.
The Boston Breakers also attracted a sellout crowd -- albeit only 3,113 fans at Dilboy Stadium -- for their 4-1 victory over the Chicago Red Stars.
The winless Seattle Reign was the last NWSL team to open at home, drawing a disappointing crowd of 2,618 at Starfire Stadium. Two of its biggest stars, Hope Solo (recovering from wrist surgery) and Amy Rodriguez (pregnancy leave), were in the stands for the game; its third American star, Megan Rapinoe, is playing in France with Lyon.
The lowest crowd for a home opener was 1,255 at the Chicago Red Stars’ game in Lisle.
Buoyed by the big crowd in Portland, the NWSL is averaging 4,595 fans through Week 4, which is more than 1,000 fans a game higher than its predecessor, WPS, averaged in its last two years.
4,595 *NWSL (2013)
3,518 WPS (2011)
3,588 WPS (2010)
4,684 WPS (2009)
6,667 WUSA (2003)
6,969 WUSA (2002)
8,103 WUSA (2001)
*Through Week 4.
NHL VS. MLS ON NBC SPORTS NETWORK. The NHL averaged 392,000 viewers, up 18 percent from last year, on NBC Sports Network, for its most-watched regular season since the 1993-94 season on ESPN and ESPN.
Through 11 games, MLS is averaging less than a quarter of what the NHL averaged: 93,000 viewers, down 22 percent from last year's debut season on NBC Sports Network.
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