The National Women's Soccer League will be back on TV, at least in a limited capacity. In a deal that is similar to last year's arrangement with Fox, ESPN2 will air three regular-season games and all three playoff games. Three additional regular-season games will be shown on the online channel ESPN3. Fox Soccer, which had a far more limited audience, aired six regular-season games and all three playoff games a year ago.
“In the midst of our second season, we are striving to provide our fans with improved access to our league matches and airing our games on ESPN2 and ESPN3 will give us a broader platform to expose fans to the amazing caliber of women’s soccer in the NWSL," NWSL Commissioner Cheryl Bailey said in a league release. "We also hope to create new fans who will appreciate the amazing athletes and personalities in our league.”
While far more people will be exposed to the NWSL under this deal, fans of individual teams may not be quite so ecstatic. Only six of the nine teams are guaranteed to appear in the broadcast matches, with the MLS-partnered Houston Dash and Portland Thorns each appearing three times. The Seattle Reign will appear on two of three ESPN3 games and Sky Blue FC will appear once on ESPN2 and ESPN3. The Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash will each appear once on ESPN2, with the Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City and Washington Spirit being shut out from regular-season matches.
The first of the ESPN2 broadcasts will be on July 20 and then effectively alternate week-to-week throughout the playoffs. Prior to this deal, all NWSL games were available on YouTube. Games being broadcast via ESPN are unlikely to be available through those channels.