Women's soccer win: NWSL championship boasts most-viewed match in league history

Ratings continue to prove that when women’s sports are broadcast on television, people will watch.

The National Women’s Soccer League title game was broadcast on prime time television for the first time Saturday, and an average of 915,000 viewers tuned in. This is a 71% increase over last year’s number of viewers and the most-viewed match in NWSL history, CBS said. The game was also Paramount Plus’ most-streamed NWSL match ever.

While the Portland Thorns collected their third NWSL championship and defeated the Kansas City Current, they also culminated a season of immense adversity. The Thorns were at the center of scandal since an investigative report revealed and confirmed how owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson allowed former head coach Paul Riley to continue coaching in the league for six years despite knowledge of the sexual harassment allegations against him. In a slew of resignations and firings, Paulson removed himself from the franchise’s decision making earlier this month.

In another victory, the boost in viewership came after FIFA rejected multiple bids for the 2023 Women's World Cup broadcast rights for being too low, it said. That tournament is less than nine months away. The NWSL championship numbers give FIFA more concrete evidence to its claim that "the opportunity for women's football is there.”

When considering the NWSL's future, fans can relish in the youth of the newly crowned league champions. Sophia Smith, 22, led the team with a stunning performance that made her the league’s youngest MVP. Meanwhile, 17-year-old midfielder Olivia Moultrie watched hilariously as her older teammates celebrated the championship win.

Much like the Thorns’ young core, the NWSL is just getting started. MLS just signed a 10-year deal with Apple worth a reported $250 million annually. In comparison, the NWSL’s current media rights deals are worth a reported $1.5 million per year for three seasons with CBS.

With NWSL media rights deals up at the end of 2023, its valuation can go only up from here.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 29: The starting lines up for the Portland Thorns FC on the pitch for the start of the 2022 National Womens Soccer League Championship Match against Kansas City Current at Audi Field on October 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Getty Images)
The Portland Thorns FC is just getting started, much like the growing audience for women's soccer (Photo by Ira L. Black/Getty Images).