NWSL’s growing pain shown through FC Kansas City

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NWSL’s growing pain shown through FC Kansas City

Photo of the 2015 NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City, courtesy of Steve Dykes/Getty Images.

Photo of the 2015 NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City, courtesy of Steve Dykes/Getty Images.

Photo of the 2015 NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City, courtesy of Steve Dykes/Getty Images.

Photo of the 2015 NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City, courtesy of Steve Dykes/Getty Images.

Rachael McKriger, Editor In Chief

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Despite multiple notable players joining the league, a TV network broadcasting their games or the on-the-field success of athletes, the National Women’s Soccer League has a huge problem.


Money is the root of most problems, is it not?

The NWSL is learning that the hard way. Last year, after a championship win, the Western New York Flash ceased operations as a professional soccer league. They still have their academy intact, but their pro game for the women was gone.

The team moved down to North Carolina, to become the North Carolina Courage. The team had immense success in 2017, making it all the way to the NWSL championship game. The Courage eventually fell to the Portland Thorns FC, but owner Stephen Malik established North Carolina as a popular venue for the women’s game.

Another venue of popularity, so it seemed, was Kansas City.

Home of FC Kansas City, the “Blues” won two NWSL championship titles in 2014 and 2015.

During those years, the Blues had an average attendance of 2,018 fans in 2014 and 3,091 in 2015 at Swope Soccer Village.

During the recent 2017 season, where FC Kansas City did not qualify for the playoffs, the average attendance was only a meager 1,788 fans.

Before the season, the team took new ownership as well, with Elam Baer buying the club. However, Baer never put any real effort to bring fans back to FC Kansas City matches.

In addition, the club was operating at a league minimum, paying their players under the NWSL set minimum of $15,000.

Despite having talented players on the roster like Becky Sauerbrunn, Sydney Leroux, Shea Groom and Nicole Barnhart, just to name a few, the Blues never got the attention they needed.

It also didn’t help that they weren’t aligned in any way with Sporting Kansas City, the city’s Major League Soccer club. Despite sharing a stadium with the Swope Park Rangers of the United Soccer League, there was no affiliation in that direction either.

The popularity of women’s soccer drastically decreased, but the popularity of the men’s team grew. While FC Kansas City could barely house 2,000 fans at Swope Park Village, 19,537 fans filled the seats of Children’s Mercy Park.

There’s no doubt that the popularity of women’s soccer is rising in the United States. The NWSL has a television agreement with Lifetime TV on A+E Networks – it’s no ESPN, but it’s a start – and popular players arriving to the league are bringing attendance up.

However, when teams are shutting down, there’s a real problem. FC Kansas City had a lot of issues, yes, and their owner never put in real effort to make it work.

But a lot of it comes back to the fans, as well. What are we doing to promote the NWSL? Are we just supporting the women’s international game, or are we carrying all that momentum over to the domestic league?

A huge year for women’s soccer will be 2019, the year of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will be held in France. There will be loads of momentum before and during this tournament.

As fans of the beautiful game, it’s our job to carry that over to the NWSL so we don’t have more teams suffer the same fate like FC Kansas City and the Western New York Flash.

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