ESPN, in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the World Cup, announced it has agreed on a TV deal with the National Women’s Soccer League for the rest of the season. The network will televise 14 league matches beginning July 14. Six of those games, including both semifinals and the championship match, will air on ESPN2, while the other eight will be on ESPNews. Before this announcement, Yahoo Sports held exclusive streaming rights for the 2019 season.
The news comes only two days after the U.S. women’s national team beat England in a World Cup semifinal that was watched by more than 7 million total viewers, making it the most watched soccer match on U.S. television since the 2018 World Cup final. It smashed records on the BBC, too.
“We are pleased to once again televise the National Women’s Soccer League and showcase many of the world’s top female players when they return to their professional club teams,” Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president for programming and scheduling, said in a release. “The success and excitement of the World Cup in France has been on full display and the NWSL represents the best women’s club soccer in the world.”
The timing of the partnership was critical for the NWSL, which prematurely lost its television contract with A&E Networks in February, a year before the deal was up. Now the NWSL gets to showcase this year’s World Cup talent on a wider scale, talent that includes all 23 members of the U.S. national team and more than 30 players from 10 other countries, including six-time FIFA player of the year and Brazil captain Marta plus Canadian captain Christine Sinclair.
“NWSL is a global leader in women’s professional soccer, with collectively the most talented players in the world,” NWSL President Amanda Duffy said. “Together with the reach of ESPN’s vast network, we have the opportunity to bring more games to a broader audience across the country and world. Even in the year leading up to the Women’s World Cup, we have continued to experience tremendous growth through the support, engagement and visibility from our fans.”