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Expand chart
Photos: U.S. Soccer; Logos: SportsLogos.Net; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. women's national team will bask in a ticker-tape parade through Manhattan today — and then it's back to work.

The state of play ... In the wake of the Americans' fourth World Cup title, the hard part remains: boosting interest in the National Women's Soccer League, where all 23 members of the USWNT spend their springs and summers.

  • Good news: The nine-team NWSL just announced an agreement with ESPN to televise 14 games during the season's second half, and Budweiser signed on as a sponsor. Wider reach plus more money equals better product.
  • Bad news: Capitalizing on the World Cup frenzy is easier said than done, especially when attendance is already somewhat of a struggle. Portland averages 18,000 fans and Utah averages 11,000, but the other seven teams average fewer than 5,000.

The big picture: While the NWSL still boasts the majority of the world's top players (including reigning world player of the year Marta), Europe is beginning to close the gap.

  • Wealthy clubs like Olympique Lyon (France) and Barcelona (Spain) have bolstered their investments in women's soccer, leading to a record seven European countries — loaded with players developed by those clubs — reaching this year's World Cup quarterfinals.
  • If the NWSL can't keep up, the balance of power in the sport could ultimately shift — both at the club level (Americans could be lured overseas by bigger paychecks) and internationally (continued investment could threaten the USWNT's dominance).

The bottom line: The seven-year-old NWSL has already survived longer than its predecessors, the Women's United Soccer Association (2001-03) and Women's Professional Soccer (2007-12), so they're clearly doing plenty of things right.

  • But now, with the future of U.S. women's soccer at stake amid the rise of European challengers, the league must seize the moment like never before.

P.S. … The USWNT will return to action on August 3 at the Rose Bowl in a friendly against Ireland.

Go deeper: U.S. soccer bill would block 2026 World Cup funds until equal pay occurs

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  4. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  5. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries.
  6. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
4 hours ago - Health

Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

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