HARRISON, NJ — The loudest cheer at Red Bull Arena on Sunday came as no surprise. An announced crowd of 15,508 fans showed up to set a record for the NJ/NY Gotham FC franchise, which, particularly in its days as Sky Blue FC, once saw days where real head count in the stadium could occasionally dip into three figures.
Progress, therefore, was palpable, but it comes with a question of sustainability. That raucous cheer let out during the final moments before kickoff came while lineups were being read for visiting San Diego Wave FC. It was, of course, an audible representation of the support for United States women’s national team star Alex Morgan, whose image was heavily used to promote the game.
Twenty-four hours earlier, in Seattle, an announced crowd of 42,054 people showed up at Lumen Field to watch the Seattle-Portland derby. That statement is technically true for both the MLS and National Women’s Soccer League games in that doubleheader, but swaths of empty seats for the women’s game (played after the men’s game) made it clear that thousands of people left early. OL Reign waffled on how to officially count the crowd, deferring to the number announced for the men’s game.
Both events come just over a month before the start of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which is expected to drive interest in domestic competitions across the world. The short-term bump is indisputable. How, though, will the NWSL capitalize on it? This golden question looms once again.
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