What is a league without its fans? The ones who show up hours before the game to tailgate in the cold, the ones who paint their faces and dye their hair to support their teams, the ones who scream at their television like the refs can hear them? The NWSL might just have some of the most loyal and supportive fans around.
Three NWSL fan groups across the country are taking to social media to rally support and excitement about the new league and their teams. They are the KC Blue Crew, the Spirit Squadron and the Thorns Alliance (temporary name).
It wasn’t long after the league was announced in December of 2012 that support groups starting forming around their favorite teams.
The Thorns Alliance formed in January and is the sister group of Portland’s MLS team, Portland Timbers. The group formed when the daughter of a Timbers Army member designed a Thorns scarf. She had hoped that Soccer City’s women’s professional team would get shown the same type of support as the men. Shortly after, her father and 45 others gathered to form the basis of the Thorns Alliance – a group that now has over 300 members on Facebook.
Almost 3,000 miles away, another group was forming to support the Washington Spirit. Three friends – Ashley Nicolas, Megan Wesson and Tory Johnson – brought together the Spirit Squadron out of a shared love of soccer and the USWNT.
“We also thought that with a new league we needed to show the team as much support as possible because we really want a women’s pro league to stay here in the United States. So between that and wanting to also provide a fun experience for fans, we decided to create the Spirit Squadron,” Nicolas said.
The three first got the idea when they saw a similar support group in Kansas City.
When Kat Lowe first heard about the formation of the NWSL, she didn’t leave the Twitter app on her phone for days in hopes for hearing about the development of a team in the Kansas City area.
“I just knew that if there was one in KC I was going to do my best to make it successful by just telling everyone and that’s when I thought of starting the Blue Crew!” Lowe said.
All three of these groups are actively using Twitter and Facebook to get the word out about the teams and their support groups leading up to the season’s opening day in May.
The KC Blue Crew is coordinating with local businesses, the Thorns Alliance is selling merchandise and the Spirit Squadron is planning on a few giveaways to some of their followers. And all of them of them are encouraging fans to come and attend home and away games with them as they cheer on their favorite teams from the stands.
“Word of mouth and social media seem to be the biggest factors in this league, so as a support group we will be spreading all the info we can, and I believe all the other groups out there will do the same,” Wesson said.
These groups realize how vital fan support will be to the league’s success. Johnson, of the Spirit Squadron, believes support groups can change the normally passive crowds at women’s games by creating central meeting places, leading crowd chants, and creating an exciting environment fans will want to return to.
The Thorns Alliance know that after two failed women’s leagues in the past, fans will play a huge part in ongoing success.
“Supporters’ groups are especially important, because I think that in a way they stick out during the games, people and players recognize them, and that definitely shows that a club has support,” Nicolas said.
Come their team’s first home games, there is no doubt you’ll know exactly where they are.