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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

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Tech's leaky world

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech companies are learning what everyone in Washington already knows: Leaks of confidential info are inevitable, and "plumbing" operations to close them rarely work.

Why it matters: Most tech firms talk up the power of transparency but prefer to keep details of their operations secret from competitors and the public. Researchers, regulators and the media are increasingly relying on information provided by dissident employees and whistleblowers to see inside companies' workings.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.

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