Friday, May 6, 2011

Getting Two Games for the Price of One: MLS, WMLS

As the 2011 Women's World Cup approaches, exhibitions are scheduled for later this month and more focus overall returns to the women's game.  

The 2007 World Cup was won by Germany, but was dominated by Marta's appeal.  Held in China, the 2007 World Cup may not have received the attention it deserved due to time differences.  This year's event, in Germany, may be received with better publicity because more matches can be watched live.  All the matches will be on ESPN.

There is no doubt to the level of aggressiveness, skillfulness and artfulness in the women's game.  There is a consistent reminder in the elegance and power of 'the beautiful game', just as with the men.  

Flashbacks of '99 will follow the U.S. team forever, that is certain.  Brandi Chastain's momentous penalty kick and taking off her shirt is ingrained in the history of sports memories.   

For most American sports fans, the main reason for the 1999 World Cup success was because the location for the Cup took place in the U.S.  More than 90,000 sports fans attended the Rose Bowl for the final and TV ratings backed up that excitement.   

With every World Cup, comes the emergence of new players and new storylines.  Unfortunately, the Women's pro game is struggling mightily in the U.S., so these players may not be able to show off their talents after this year's World Cup, unless it's for pro leagues in other countries.  This is where MLS can come to the rescue.  MLS would be smart to invest in the women's pro game in the U.S. 

Professional women's Soccer showed that it had a solid base of fans to draw from during the WUSA years.  Women’s soccer was able to make itself viable as a professional commodity because of what happened with the U.S. women’s World Cup performance in 1999.  

But, years later, WUSA has folded and WPS, the new pro Women's league has diminished in size to six teams and with its stature in the public eye, as it has only teams on the eastern half of the U.S. playing.

Executives in MLS need to figure out a way to use their growth with fans to help stabilize the women's game and position it for a better future.  It is important because the women's game, ultimately, may be a catalyst that helps propel MLS more mainstream with sports fans overall.  A strong women's league sends a powerful message to sports fans about where Soccer ranks among spectator sports.  

Doubleheaders, whether occasional or often, would be a way to market the two leagues together.  MLS and its women's league, WMLS, could use similar team colors and travel together.  With 2 games to watch, the chances are much better to see a nail-biter.  It is likely at least one of the matches will have superior drama for sports fans at the game or watching on TV.
The WNBA has had its share of peaks and valleys, but the NBA has realized the important investment opportunity and continues to make efforts to grow its women's game.  With pro basketball leagues growing substantially in China, it is not out of the question to see the NBA in the near future move the WNBA to share its calendar and provide doubleheaders as well. 

It is hard to figure out why the soccer braintrust with MLS has not already put a women’s league together, as it seems a women's league would be the perfect compliment to MLS.  Women's soccer is exciting, competitive, and fun to watch.  If cultivated properly, women's and men's pro soccer in the U.S. can take each other further along in the sports spectator spectrum.  It is a package that brings soccer fans more with less effort. 

1 comment:

  1. "It is hard to figure out why the soccer braintrust with MLS has not already put a women’s league together, as it seems a women's league would be the perfect compliment to MLS."

    Why it hasn't is because it makes zero business sense to do so. Regardless of how exciting women's soccer is (I personally enjoy it), what corporate entity (such as MLS) would want to align itself with a business model that is not only floundering, but has already failed in the past?

    MLS "invested" in WPS's predecessor - WUSA - and watched it fail. Why would it do so again, other than for altruistic reasons? The last thing MLS needs is to invest in an entity that, unfortunately, will likely sink in the next three years.

    For the health of MLS, it's best to keep its focus on sustaining and growing itself rather than throwing what little money it has (comparitively speaking) to another league, nevermind one that's on the brink of collapse.