With the FIFA Women’s World Cup raring for Sunday’s final featuring Team USA vs. the Netherlands and ratings for the tournament on Fox and FS1 on the rise, ESPN has inked a deal with the American women’s pro soccer league, the National Women’s Soccer League, to televise 14 matches during the current 2019 season that began in April.
A total of 55 players on Women’s World Cup rosters in France play in the nine-team NWSL, including U.S. stars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath and Lindsey Horan.
The broadcast deal comes after Lifetime and A&E Networks in February exited a three-year official sponsor and broadcast partner deal a year early, leaving the league without a TV home less than two months before the start of its season. That deal included an equity stake in the NWSL, which is in its fifth season.
The Lifetime deal included the cable network airing airing a NWSL Game of the Week each Saturday of the 20-game season, along with a half-hour pregame show.
As part of the ESPN deal unveiled Thursday, eight matches in will air on ESPNEWS, with the rest — including the two semifinals and the league championship — to air on ESPN2. All will stream live on the ESPN App. The slate begins July 14 with Heath and Horan’s Portland Thorns hosting Morgan’s Orlando Pride on ESPNNEWS.
The NWSL championship game is October 27.
“We are pleased to once again televise the National Women’s Soccer League and showcase many of the world’s top female players when they return to their professional club teams,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s EVP Programming and Scheduling, in today’s announcement of the deal. “The success and excitement of the World Cup in France has been on full display and the NWSL represents the best women’s club soccer in the world.”