By Ailien Phan
The record breaking viewership of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup undoubtedly gave the U.S. team a chance to boost the exposure and following of women’s professional soccer. In the USA alone, over 14.1 million tuned in to watch the final, which was more than twice the amount that watched the Men’s World Cup last year. Because of the World Cup, the US team’s star players, Abby Wombach, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo instantly became favorites of thousands of new fans. As mentioned in my previous post, Solo even signed on to do a campaign for Nike. However, even with this momentum, will it be enough to transform women’s soccer into a powerhouse in American sports? And will its stars command diehard loyalty that rivals the type of loyalty we’ve seen with athletes like David Beckham?
While I don’t think in the next few years soccer will be as popular in the US as it is in European countries, the World Cup proved that there is great popularity potential in the sport as well as its rising athletes. The peaked interest in the World Cup ensures high expectations for the next World Cup, upcoming Olympics and increased attendance to professional women’s soccer games. Even though this increase may be small, it is still forward progress that shouldn’t be overlooked. Following the World Cup, only one team out of all the women’s professional team’s , Sky Blue FC, did not see an increase in attendance in their first game. USA’s magicJack, Abby Wombach’s team, set a women’s professional soccer record by drawing a crowd of 15,404 fans at their first post-World Cup game. What’s more, a couple weeks later, the match between the Western New York Flash and the magicJack, sold out because the teams boasted Alex Morgan and Abby Wombach respectively. Often times the “tipping point” is sparked by small events, such as minute increases in attendance, which then gives way to a huge wave of unexpected success. As long as attendance increases, however slowly, these stars continue to command legions of fans. And if the US team continues to play well in international competition, I believe this tipping point will provide increased exposure not only for women’s soccer, but for women’s professional sports overall.