Women’s soccer is one of the top women’s professional sports in the country, but despite the popularity of American football, there is no equally famous women’s league. It would be nice to change this, especially since American football has a vast audience.
You can judge the audience size for American football by the number of people who tune in to watch the games during the NFL season and by how many Americans have taken to betting on the sport. Now that sports betting is legal across most of the country, many Americans have started betting. The high demand for expert NFL picks shows how many Americans love the sport.
Would those same audiences be interested in a women’s American football league? This article will examine why women’s soccer has achieved a higher level of popularity and try to figure out why women’s American football is lagging.
The history of women’s sports around the world is a frustrating one. There has never been as much support given to female athletes. Less money is invested in women’s sports leagues, and they receive little promotion, which results in a smaller audience. That lack of an audience is then blamed on a general lack of interest in women’s sports instead of that lack of funding and promotion.
This lack of investment and promotion is true of both professional sports and college-level sports. With less funding or interest in women’s sports in college, fewer women are available to pursue careers as professional athletes.
International competitions like the Olympics or the World Cup are some of the few times women’s sports generate as much hype as their male counterparts. We have a well-established history of appreciating female athletes competing in individual events. We’re comfortable with individual women becoming sports celebrities like Simone Biles, Venus and Serena Williams, and Picabo Street but struggle with celebrating women’s teams.
The 2022 UEFA Women’s Championship in July was a massive moment for women’s soccer, especially for the English women’s team that won. This tournament captured the public’s attention in a way previous editions hadn’t, suggesting that women’s sports are finally getting more notice.
Women’s soccer is one of the few sports, alongside women’s basketball, that has established a large following. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is the counterpart to the MLS in the United States. By establishing teams in cities that have already shown a passion for soccer, NWSL teams have secured a stronger foothold than many would have expected.
Another part of the success of the NWSL is that it’s simply a great sport to watch. It is fast-paced, intense, easy to follow, and easy for new viewers to see the apparent talent on the field.
In talking about the popularity of women’s soccer, we can’t ignore the impact of Bend It Like Beckham (2002). Gurinder Chadha’s film was a surprise hit that immediately resonated with young women worldwide. Two decades later, it remains an inspiring film. It has shown a generation that women can play sports and be great at them. Since the movie is about soccer, it makes sense that it would have significantly impacted acceptance and appreciation of that sport.
Women’s American football
One of the most serious issues with the current women’s American football league is the history of the league itself. The Legends Football League (LFL) was founded as the Lingerie Football League. The players played in pads, helmets, and underwear for the first few seasons. They were serious athletes who were treated as sex objects and not taken seriously in the slightest.
In the last decade, the LFL has been working on rebranding itself. Besides the name change, the uniforms have gradually transitioned from lingerie to actual athletic wear. Many still struggle to view it as a legitimate league instead of an exploitive mess.
With luck, the latest rebranding – from the LFL to the X League – will allow the league completely distance itself from its origins. This seems like the only way that women’s American football will be able to attract an actual following. This will likely take several more years, but we’re hopeful that all women’s sports will begin to get the attention that they deserve.