NWSL Impressing in North Carolina

by Fran Stuchbury
April 2, 2018 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)

Saturday, I covered my first National Women's Soccer League North Carolina Courage game against Sky Blue FC and came away impressed with the team's showing on and off the field.

The NWSL was formed in 2013 and is now in its sixth season. Its lineup features nine teams: the North Carolina Courage, Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Utah Royals FC (moved from Kansas City) and the Washington Spirit.

In addition to FC Kansas City's move to the Salt Lake City area, the Boston Breakers folded at the end of January when they were unable to find another ownership group to take over.

The NWSL is entering the second year of a three-year television contract with Lifetime, which includes both a pre and post-game show. Games are also streamed on go90.com so fans can watch matches live and on demand.

This is the Courage's second season in the NWSL. In 2016 they played as the Western New York Flash. They were bought by the owners of USL's North Carolina FC, moved to Cary, North Carolina and were rebranded as the North Carolina Courage.

In its first season in the NWSL, the Courage advanced to the NWSL Championship game in Orlando before falling to Portland Thorns FC, 1-0.

A team called the Carolina Courage played in the Women's United Soccer Association from 2001 to 2003. In 2001 they played at Fetzger Field at the UNC Chapel Hill Campus. For the 2002 and 2003 seasons they played at SAS Stadium (now called WakeMed Soccer park) in Cary. In 2002 the Courage won the Founders Cup, the WUSA Championship, defeating the Washington Freedom 3-2. After the 2003 season the WUSA suspended operations.

Saturday, the North Carolina Courage defeated Sky Blue FC 1-0 when Jessica McDonald scored the game winning goal in extra time. The Courage dominated the entire match having 23 shots compared to only three by Sky Blue FC. North Carolina had many close opportunities including one shot that hit the goal post. It looked as if they were due to score and they eventually did.

The attendance of 4,078 was a pretty good turnout on a holiday weekend. The crowd was vocal the entire game on all the close scoring chances. When Jessica McDonald finally scored the place erupted. The fan-base is passionate and gives the Courage a good home field advantage.

After the game the Courage players were signing autographs for fans, including many children, creating a very fan friendly environment.

The NWSL posts match highlights of every game on their Facebook page. They show all the goals and close scoring chances. The NWSL and all its teams are very active on all its social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others.

The local Spectrum News cable channel in Raleigh featured highlights the next day, giving the Courage some additional coverage.

The NWSL hopes to add another two to three teams in 2019. Both Vancouver and Los Angeles have expressed interest in hosting teams. When Nashville joins Major League Soccer they also have indicated an interest in having a league franchise.

The NWSL has lasted longer than the previous two attempts at women's soccer leagues: the WUSA and WPS. Having Lifetime as not just a TV partner but also a stakeholder in the league is helping the NWSL grow and find stability. All the teams are involved in their communities, interacting with fans on a regular basis.

For fans who have a NWSL team in their market, it is worth checking out a game. It's a fun, fan-friendly experience.




Images from this story

North Carolina Courage in action
North Carolina Courage in action

(Fran Stuchbury)
  

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National Women's Soccer League Stories from April 2, 2018


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