Midfielder Lindsey Horan hopes the attention on women’s soccer and the Americans’ run at the World Cup will boost the professional league back home.
The National Women’s Soccer League is in the midst of its seventh season and has been more successful than any other attempt at a pro women’s soccer league in the United States. But the NWSL has seen recent struggles with slow growth, a need for sponsors, and a lack of television exposure.
The defending-champion US national team will play the Netherlands on Sunday for the Women’s World Cup title.
National team players are allocated across the NWSL’s nine teams and US Soccer pays their salaries.
Horan, who plays for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, hopes the league experiences a World Cup bump. She'd like the league to see the success of the Thorns, who average crowds of around 17,000 a game.
‘‘Hopefully it grows, hopefully we get more teams, and more people buy into us and realize how important it is for the women’s game — and that our NWSL gets better and better so we can get better for our national team,’’ she said.
The league got some positive news earlier this week when ESPN announced its network will televise 14 matches this season, including both semifinals and the championship Oct. 27. It will be the network’s first NWSL broadcasts since 2014.
The NWSL and A+E Networks terminated their broadcast agreement in February, leaving the league with no TV partner. Last season, a game aired each week on the Lifetime channel.
A+E surrendered its stake in the league, but Lifetime remains a jersey sponsor.
‘‘I was pretty annoyed that we didn’t have a [television] deal at the beginning of the year. It almost felt like we were going backward,’’ Horan said. ‘‘So I think this should have come a while ago, but I'm very happy that it did.’’
But it’s not just the NWSL. Horan would like to see women’s soccer lifted globally in the wake of the World Cup.
‘‘Hopefully everyone sees this around the world and everyone sees what the women’s game is turning into and how much exposure we’re getting. You've seen the numbers throughout this World Cup, how many people are watching, how many people we were getting at the stadiums,’’ she said. ‘‘And hopefully, clubs and owners and everyone sees that.’’
Following high school, Horan headed overseas to play in France for Paris Saint-Germain for several years. She moved back to the United States to join the Thorns in 2016. Fellow Thorns Tobin Heath, Emily Sonnett, and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch are also on the US squad in France.
Spilling the tea?
Alex Morgan said her tea-sipping celebration at the Women’s World Cup was a nod to actress Sophie Turner’s amusing Instagram posts.
No, it wasn’t a dig at England or a random reference to the Boston Tea Party, or any number of other theories out there.
‘‘My celebration was actually more ‘That’s the tea,’ which is telling a story, spreading news,’’ the US forward explained.
Morgan pretended to sip tea after scoring the go-ahead goal in Tuesday’s semifinal victory over England.
Turner’s Instagram is filled with her saying audacious or gossipy things, adding ‘‘That’s the tea’’ and taking a sip.
‘‘I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports to feel like we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate but not too much, or do something but always in a limited fashion,’’ Morgan said.
Morgan has been criticized for the celebration. Lianne Sanderson, her former teammate on the Orlando Pride, called the celebration ‘‘distasteful.’’
‘‘She can celebrate however she wants and I'm a big believer in the Americans and how they celebrate, but this was disrespectful,’’ said Sanderson, a former striker for England’s national team.
Morgan spoke to reporters Friday, clarifying the source of the goal celebration and referencing the ‘‘Game of Thrones’’ actress. She said it’s hard to understand the outrage when men have celebrated goals by grabbing their crotches.
The US team has drawn criticism for its goal celebrations in France. First it was the repeated celebrations after every goal in a 13-0 rout of Thailand, which some said were unsportsmanlike. Carli Lloyd responded in the next game with a golf clap after her goal.
Megan Rapinoe struck an ‘‘Are you not entertained?’’ pose in the quarterfinals against France before Morgan’s tea sipping in the semis.
‘‘I think everybody’s just kind of having fun with the celebrations and embracing the moment,’’ Lloyd said.
Bigger field in ’23?
FIFA will seek to expand the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams and double the prize money.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino will need quick approval from ruling bodies to enlarge the field, with bidding already underway for the 2023 edition. The process would have to be reopened if countries will have to find the stadiums to accommodate more teams and additional games.
‘‘We will need to act more quickly if we want to have 32 teams already in 2023,’’ Infantino said Friday. ‘‘We will discuss it as a matter of urgency and see if we can already decide to increase for 2023 in which case we should re-open the bidding process and allow everyone to have a chance to organize or maybe co-host for some of those who have been bidding already for a 24-team World Cup.’’
The 37-member FIFA Council had been due to vote on the 2023 host in March 2020, with nine countries expressing interesting in bidding.
The nine, including recent men’s World Cup hosts Brazil and South Africa, must submit formal bid plans by Oct. 4. The other contenders are Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, which could bid with North Korea.
‘‘Nothing is impossible and based on the success of this World Cup of course we have to believe bigger and to do what we should have done already probably some time ago,’’ Infantino said ahead of Sunday’s final between the United States and the Netherlands. ‘‘But now we have the evidence to do it for women’s football.’’