Washington Spirit rides Women's World Cup wave

The Washington Spirit became the fifth NWSL team to break its single-game attendance record since U.S. World Cup champions returned to the league in July when it drew an announced crowd of 19,741 fans for its first game of the season at Audi Field, home of MLS's D.C. United.

NWSL club attendance records:
1. Portland, 25,218 (2019 vs. NC Courage)
2. Orlando, 23,403 (2016 vs. Houston)
3. Washington, 19,741 (2019 vs. Orlando)
4. Utah, 19,203, (2018 vs. Chicago)
5. Chicago, 17,388 (2019 vs. NC Courage)
6. Houston, 13,025 (2015 vs. Chicago)
7. NC Courage, 9,505 (2018 vs. Houston)
8. Sky Blue FC, 9,415 (2019 vs. Reign FC)
9. Reign FC, 7,479 (2019 vs. Chicago)

The crowd for the 2-1 win over Orlando more than doubled the Spirit's record set last year when it played at Audi Field, which opened last summer. And the Spirit packed the stadium despite the absence of injured stars Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh and Orlando's Alex Morgan, who is out on a concussion protocol.

The Spirit came into the game averaging 3,593 fans this season at the tiny Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Maryland. It expects the second home game at Audi Field on Sept. 14 against Reign FC with Megan Rapinoe to draw equally well.

New Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin told the Washington Post that the NWSL has a chance to make the league sustainable by riding the post-Women's World Cup wave. The Spirit, eighth out of nine teams with two wins in 24 games is 2018, is 7-7-4 after the win over Orlando and just three points out of fourth place. (The top four teams in the nine-team league make the playoffs.)

“Shame on us if we don’t get that done,” Baldwin told the Post. “We have the best professional athletes in the world, and they are the best-educated group of athletes in the world. We have to sell that competitive advantage to drive that revenue to those types of levels. I think this is the best shape the league has ever been in, and I can’t imagine a corporation having a better opportunity to unleash fabulous female role models in a bigger way than what we have.”

Baldwin, who has made improvements on the team side since taking over the Spirit and plans to make upgrades on the game-day experience, said the Spirit has added about 20 corporate partners this season and is talking with many others.

Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire

2 comments about "Washington Spirit rides Women's World Cup wave".
  1. Bob Ashpole, August 25, 2019 at 1:20 p.m.

    Elsewhere on the site is a piece about the extremely low attendances at the French opening day matches. Apparently there was no fan interest generated from the World Cup for the French clubs. How can that be? I just don't have the cultural context.  

  2. uffe gustafsson, August 25, 2019 at 8:31 p.m.

    I can only report from Le Havre games.
    it was all foreigners really no French people at the games. Seem to me many French people was not even aware that the WC was happening.
    maybe Paris and Lyon had better French attendance.
    besides the French team did not live up to the expectations of the French people.
    but clearly the people in USA was into the games.
    so glad that our club teams getting noticed only good things will come. And us soccer should get into the bidding of WC 2023 to continue this wave of women’s soccer.

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