For the past few months, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) was trying to decide whether or not to sanction the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS).
The USSF requires all first-division leagues to have at least eight teams. When the WPS started in 2006, there were six teams around the country. By 2008, there were eight teams. After the recent fold by the Florida-based magicJack, the WPS is down to five. (The USSF eventually approved the WPS for play.)
One of the reasons so many clubs folded was the teams weren’t making enough money through attendance. I went to see the Chicago Red Stars, a former WPS team, with my family in 2010. The attendance was low. In 2010, the WPS had an attendance average of 3,601 fans per game. The men’s league, Major League Soccer (MLS) averaged 16,675.
As a country we have learned to accept women as athletes and have been proud to have them represent our country. During the 2011 Women’s World Cup, so many people were watching the games and rooting for the women’s team. But where did that energy and excitement for women’s sports go?
When the World Cup comes around again, odds are people will fully support the team. But until then we need to find a way to stay connected and interested. Another example is Maya Moore. We loved her at UConn, and she was the most famous players in women’s college basketball. Now that she plays in the WNBA, where did she go? We don’t hear about her as much anymore.
When women’s sports are visible and available for us to see, we get really into them and excited about them. Women’s sports need more coverage from newspapers, TV stations and magazines so we can continue to have the same excitement that’s created by huge events like the World Cup or Olympics.
At the same time, it is great that there are these chances for women to play professional sports. Over time, more professional leagues have been created, giving women more and more opportunities to showcase their talents. Twenty years ago, the WPS didn’t exist and neither did the WNBA. Among the only times women could play sports was during the Olympics.
As a nation we have come so far in accepting women’s sports, but we still have a long way to go. We need to start paying more attention to women’s sports and become diehard fans like we are for men’s. We need to continue to appreciate these women and spread the word that they are amazing athletes doing amazing things.