Could COVID-19 Potentially Destroy the NWSL?

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After a successful year for women's soccer and a brand new network TV deal between CBS and the NWSL, it seemed that 2020 was the year that the sport could have seen massive and stable growth in its fanbase, yet COVID-19 has rendered that impossible. Could the NWSL be forgotten in the midst of the sports suspension created by the global crisis? SI's Stephanie Apstein shines a light on this very problem that faces the women's soccer league.

Read the full transcript below: 

Kaitlin O'Toole: The coronavirus has halted the sports world for two months, and now we are asking the question, could it crash the National Women's Soccer League. Joining me now to discuss this is SI's writer Stephanie Apstein. Stephanie, there was a ton of interest in women's soccer after the World Cup. The NWSL even landed a deal with CBS to air games on network TV. The timing of this virus, though, has changed a lot. Where does the league stand now?

Stephanie Apstein: Yeah, the timing. Everyone agrees the timing is really rough because the United States seems to be really into women's soccer around the time of the World Cup and around the time of the Olympics and for women's soccer, those are staggered such that every three years there's one and then the next year is the other. So that 12 months in between is really important for women's soccer. They were really hopeful after their World Cup win and leading into an Olympics in which they were favored, that they could really gain some momentum among fans. Unfortunately, this is sort of the opposite is happening right now and they're hopeful, but they are a little concerned that if this goes on for too long, people might forget about the NWSL.

Kaitlin O'Toole: Right. They were going into their eighth season of operating. People involved thought this would be the best stretch yet. I mean, what do you think? Is there still a chance for growth?

Stephanie Apstein: I think there is a chance for growth. I think a lot of these teams have done a great job engaging fans, reminding people that they're here. They are also missing soccer, a lot of good sort of social contact. One of the players I spoke to pointed out to me that women's soccer, the NWSL is not the only thing that got put on hold. The Olympics are also on hold. So they can maintain some of that excitement when we finally do see the Olympics.

Kaitlin O'Toole: Good point. Very good point. Stephanie, thank you so much for your insight. We appreciate it. 

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