Can the U.S. victory in the Women's World Cup lead to sustained soccer interest After the excitement and thrill of the U.S. victory in the Women's World Cup, attention shifts back to the NWSL — the 7-year-old pro league in the U.S. Will the enthusiasm lead to sustained interest?
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Women's World Cup Bump — Short-Lived Or Longer?

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Women's World Cup Bump — Short-Lived Or Longer?

Women's World Cup Bump — Short-Lived Or Longer?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/747346048/749164106" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been a month since the U.S. women's national soccer team won a second straight World Cup and gained rock star popularity in the process. Since the win, their goal has been to capitalize on that success.

Here's U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro at a victory celebration in New York.

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CARLOS CORDEIRO: If you loved these players in the World Cup, then come out and cheer on your local teams - NWSL teams this year.

SHAPIRO: The NWSL is the pro women's soccer league in the U.S. Now in its seventh year, it helped develop the World Cup heroes, and it's still somewhat unknown.

NPR's Tom Goldman examines the impact the World Cup is having on the league.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: In the National Women's Soccer League, World Cup bump is a relative term. In soccer hotbed Portland, Ore., the Thorns drew a post-World Cup crowd of 22,000. Orlando had its biggest attendance in two years. And in Houston, the Dash had a season-high turnout in its first home game after the tournament.

ZAC EMMONS: Just under 5,500.

GOLDMAN: Zac Emmons is a Dash spokesman.

EMMONS: For Dash games, we sell the lower bowl of the stadium. We had the entire lower bowl sold out, actually had to open some upper-level sections to accommodate the crowd.

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Please stand and raise your scarves. Now taking the pitch for tonight's match, please welcome your Houston Dash.

GOLDMAN: The second post-World Cup game, the energy was there. The paying customers - not so much. This time, 3,500 people showed up on a hot, sticky Sunday night, including some who still wanted to make a statement.

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MARCO GOMEZ: I read a call to action and, like, that's what I'm doing. I'm doing it. I'm acting (laughter).

GOLDMAN: Thirty-year-old hospital technician Marco Gomez read on social media about the U.S. women's well-publicized quest for equal pay, compared to their male counterparts. The Instagram post encouraged readers to support women's soccer at all levels.

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GOMEZ: OK, makes sense; so that's what I'm doing here.

GOLDMAN: While it was his first Dash game, 9-year-old Remy Haguewood has been to many. She was decked out in a white U.S. soccer jersey and Houston Dash scarf.

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REMY HAGUEWOOD: I love soccer. And I love the drums. They play drums also, so it's just awesome to be here.

GOLDMAN: And, says her mom, Lacy, necessary.

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LACY HAGUEWOOD: It's very important to stay dedicated, to stay strong for those women, you know. You just have to stay the course and do what we do, and that's show up every day.

GOLDMAN: On this night dedication was rewarded midway through the first half.

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UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Daly into the area. Daly - shot. And that one's going to find the top corner for the first goal of the evening for the Houston Dash coming from Rachel Daly.

GOLDMAN: Forward Rachel Daly scored the only goal heard on NWSL media in a 1-nil Houston win over Sky Blue FC. Despite her starring role, Daly was not to be trifled with. She reminded autograph-hunting little girls manners matter.

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RACHEL DALY: If you say please.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh.

DALY: I know your mom taught you to say that.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Will you please sign my card?

DALY: Because you said please, I will.

GOLDMAN: And despite the passion from the stands, she wasn't happy about the turnout.

Do you think the NWSL is getting the bounce that people are saying that it should after the World Cup?

DALY: No, I actually don't. I think some places are. Others aren't. You know, I don't think there was enough people out there for us tonight.

GOLDMAN: Daly was on England's World Cup team. She wondered if Houston lagged in the stands because no U.S. national team members play for the Dash.

Regardless, women's soccer writer RJ Allen says the league would be wise to promote others.

RJ ALLEN: Showing off more than just the Alex Morgans or the Tobin Heaths or, you know, the Alyssa Naehers is a key. They have to build up a recognizable base of players that have nothing to do with the U.S. women's national team.

GOLDMAN: That should be easier thanks to a new ESPN TV deal, essentially broadcasting a national game-of-the-week and a Budweiser sponsorship. Allen, the editor in chief of backlinesoccer.com, says lots more has to happen. While the U.S. national team members battle for equal pay, the NWSL, she says, with its roughly $17,000 minimum salary, would do well to pay non-U.S. women's team players more. And the TV deal, she says, needs to be extended. The NWSL is widely considered to be the most competitive women's pro soccer league in the world. Allen says the public needs to know that.

ALLEN: The reason that the U.S. won the second World Cup is directly because of the NWSL - because of players like Sam Mewis and Lindsay Horan playing in the NWSL and getting better because of this league. And without it, it becomes a lot less certain that the U.S. is going to keep their dominance in the world.

GOLDMAN: Meaning, the rallying cry - if you love the World Cup winners, please support the NWSL - should perhaps be, if you love the World Cup winners, you better support the NWSL.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Houston.

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