NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman says 'time is now' for expansion in growing league

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman says ‘time is now’ for expansion in growing league

Last weekend’s slate of season opening National Women’s Soccer League matches smashed previous attendance records and Commissioner Jessica Berman says it’s part of a surge in interest in the women’s game.

Average attendance for the kickoff of the 10th NWSL season was over 10,000 fans per game, boosted by expansion team Angel City FC’s 22,000-person sellout in downtown Los Angeles on Friday night. Angel City won the game against the North Carolina Courage 2-1.

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The previous high was 7,880 fans per game in 2016, according to Soccer America.

“There were 22,000 people there who bought tickets and were wearing their Angel City merchandise head to toe,” Berman said Wednesday at the espnW Summit in New York City.

“If the crowd could speak it would say, ‘Challenge accepted.’ Enough with the proof of concept. What else do we need to do to prove that women’s sports has business value and people are ready to show up and support women’s sports?

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman speaks to the media ahead of the opening match for expansion team Angel City FC. Getty Images

“The environment is there, the business community is showing up, the fans are showing up, the players are excited and engaged. The time is now.”

The league is looking to add more teams in the coming years and Berman said she was overwhelmed by the level of interest from potential owners, including celebrity athletes.

Earlier on Wednesday, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant joined on as a minority investor of NJ/NY Gotham FC. Last month, the team added twice World Cup and Olympic champion Carli Lloyd to their ownership group as well.

“It’s going to be a challenge to figure out who we admit into the league with so many qualified and interested investors,” Berman said. “It’s a good problem to have.”

Excitement for the women’s game is not limited to the United States.

Barcelona has drawn more than 90,000 fans for two of its recent matches, while women’s teams in France, Germany and England have also set attendance records recently.

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