With just two days until the inaugural game of the National Women’s Soccer League, details were still coming together Thursday with league officials confirming that all games will be streamed online and a television deal is in the works.
In a conference call to reporters, NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey hinted that a television partnership could be announced before Saturday’s inaugural match in Kansas City against the Portland Thorns.
“We do have a couple of sponsors – very prominent sponsors – that we hope in the next day or two that we’ll be able to put out there,” she said.
NWSL’s predecessor, the Women’s Professional Soccer league, had partnered for a multi-year deal with Fox Soccer Channel to televise a live WPS game per week. But it appears NWSL won’t retread the same path – Fox announced this month Fox Soccer would cease operations in September.
All NWSL games this season will be available online, Bailey said.
“One of things we do have in place that’s very exciting this year is YouTube,” she said. “We’re going to have the ability for every weekend, every game to be able to livestream – to have access to that and all the games are going to be able to be online.”
Teams have slowly been releasing online broadcast details on their own. The Boston Breakers announced in March they were teaming up with Boss Media to offer livestream games in HD, while the Chicago Red Stars are partnering with Ollin Omnimedia to do the same. The Thorns this week announced they would provide free livestreams too.
NWSL launched its online store earlier this week and although it exclusively contains Nike merchandise, Bailey said NWSL is “in the final stages” of an apparel deal, which will be announced soon.
U.S. Soccer, which was behind the formation of the NWSL, has made it clear that the new league would learn from the failures of WPS and the Women’s United Soccer Association by scaling down costs and tempering expectations.
But Bailey said the short turnaround since the league started to take shape this past winter made national marketing a challenge, despite its importance for the new league’s sustainability.
“Three to four months is what we’ve had to pull this deal together. Your sponsorship is not going to be in your first year where you hope it will be over time,” she said. “But I think it is a critical part to be able to sustain the league, to be able to brand the league, to be able to show how important it is on the national stage.”
The inaugural NWSL game is scheduled for Saturday at Shawnee Mission District Stadium in Kansas against the Portland Thorns. The rest of the teams in the league will play their season-openers the following day.