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Boost predicted in women’s pro soccer

A record-breaking soccer game audience of more than 25 million Americans tuned in Sunday evening to watch the United States win its first Women’s World Cup since 1999. With the U.S. team’s 5-2 victory over defending champion Japan, Pittsford native Abby Wambach—the all-time leading international scorer for men and women and two-time Olympic gold medalist—secured her crowning achievement: a world title.

The U.S. team is expected to embark on a victory tour later this summer, with ticket sales for two August games already topping 20,000 each.

Two-thirds of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll predict the U.S. win will boost women’s professional soccer in this country.

In 1999, the U.S. team’s dramatic victory before a crowd of more than 90,000 at the Rose Bowl led to the launch of the Women’s United Soccer Association in 2001. It lasted three seasons, as did the Women’s Professional Soccer League, started in 2009.

The Western New York Flash, which plays home games at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, joined the league in 2011 and has been a member of the National Women’s Soccer League since its launch in 2013. The NWSL is operated by U.S. Soccer and is supported financially by the Canadian Soccer Association and Mexican Football Federation.

According to Soccer Wire, average home attendance for the Flash in 2014 was roughly 3,200—slightly better than the league average excluding the Portland Thorns FC, which averaged more than 13,300 per game. At the Flash’s July 3 home game, the fifth of 10 to be played here this year, 2,377 fans attended.

Just 5 percent of Snap Poll respondents have attended a Flash home game this season. However, a third say they’re more likely to attend one now after the U.S. victory at the Women’s World Cup. 

Nearly 470 readers took part in this poll, which was conducted July 6 and 7.

Will the U.S. win in the 2015 Women’s World Cup boost women’s pro soccer in this country?
A lot: 19%
Somewhat: 48%
Not very much: 26%
Not at all: 6%

So far this season, how many Western New York Flash home games have you attended?
None: 95%
1-2: 4%
3-4: 1%
Every game: 1%

After the 2015 Women’s World Cup, are you now more likely to attend Western New York Flash home games?
Yes: 34%
No: 66%

COMMENTS:

The World Cup win will boost interest in women’s soccer at every level, except professional. You will likely see a boost in participation at the middle school, high school and college levels, but not women’s professional soccer.
—Michael L. Harf

Until cable sports channels embrace women’s soccer, it will never develop to its full potential.
—Paul Dudley

Go U.S.A.! Great game! I hope the World Cup and prior success starts to draw more attention to teams like the Western New York Flash. The team puts a lot of effort into providing a quality team with big-name players every season. Unfortunately, the stadium is not very nice in and around, so going there is not really a pleasant experience. If the city and state would put in money to improve that part of downtown, that would improve attendance for all sports immediately and improve a rundown part of the city.
—Keith Newcomer

It ought to boost interest. But it won’t.
—Jim Haefner, Pittsford

Speaking of sports—watching baseball puts me to sleep, as does football, and tennis isn’t much better. Basketball is worth watching and exciting. Lacrosse and soccer are the most intense sports one can see. Being able to move flat-out nonstop amazes me, as well as the amazing teamwork. I think it is not nationally televised because there’s virtually no way to add tons of commercials. No money, no TV.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

It was a great achievement for the U.S.A. women’s national soccer team and certainly generated a lot of buzz. However, I don’t expect it to overtake the NFL’s TV ratings anytime soon.
—Michael Lawrence

I have two grandchildren (boy and girl) who play soccer, and I much prefer to attend their games versus the Flash. As for women’s professional soccer, I’d be in favor of replacing several weeks of NFL football with men’s or women’s soccer games. Of course the problem is money, and until Budweiser and Miller and the automobile companies begin to send their commercials to soccer matches, the NFL and its hulking players will rule the roost.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

We can only hope that these women will receive their due into perpetuity. I would prefer that we be recognized for our pure brilliance in all aspects of life. But “Big Sports” means “Big Corporate” money, and that is what men are interested in. So women’s sports may flourish yet.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design

My responses go counter to what I truly believe. My presence or absence had nothing to do with the 2015 victory, and has no bearing on the future popularity of the sport. However, the attendance speaks for itself. Besides, sports fans LOVE victories!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

I like gymnastics during the Olympics, but no other time. I like track and field during the Olympics, and no time else. I will like women’s soccer during the World Cup and the Olympics, and I imagine no other time. Most games are too defense-minded, low-scoring and boring. After what that coach did to Abby Wambach during the World Cup, I hope Abby is appointed National Soccer Coach the moment she retires. If you want to see a class act, watch Abby Wambach.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.

7/10/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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