The Portland Thorns pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Red Stars on the heels of a 2-2 draw between the cities’ MLS sides. Conditions were again poor, with cold temperatures and a biting north wind. Nevertheless, many Riveters stayed for both matches along with several of the Portland Timbers who braved the elements to root for their sister club.
The GO90 broadcast sometimes picked up the chants from the southeast corner. One Riveter in attendance reported that the group was singing both standards and made-up-on-the-spot rhymes. They were clearly making enough noise that the players could hear them, since both Christine Sinclair and Lindsey Horan ran to that corner after scoring their first-half goals.
The official attendance was 13,678 since one ticket got both games of the doubleheader. Actual attendance for the second match was quite a bit less – starting with perhaps 8-10,000 and ending with less than 5,000. It was not a nice day to spend five hours outdoors.
The Washington Spirit drew a full house (4,989) for their opener against the Orlando Pride. The North Carolina Courage’s last-second win over Sky Blue was witnessed by 4,078 while the Houston Dash had 3,433 watch a dull 0-0 draw with the Utah Royals. Counting the inflated Chicago numbers, the league average to date is 6,545 which is already 1,500 per game more than last year’s average, still without a Portland home match to goose the numbers. Here’s hoping this continues.
In last week’s comments, there were discussions about the importance of location to attendance. The table below shows the transportation-only “cost” of going to an NWSL match at the nine venues, sorted from least to most expensive. I used Google’s definition of ”city center” as the starting location (Raleigh for the Courage, New York City for Sky Blue) to calculate the time and method of travel. Tollguru.com provided the cost of gas and tolls for driving routes. The “hassle” cost accounts for the time, risk and frustrations of getting somewhere. I arbitrarily set it at 15₵ per minute or $9 per hour. Also note that driving cost does not include the cost of the actual car, insurance, etc. – just gas and tolls.
As you can see, there seems to be a strong correlation between lower cost and higher attendance. Houston is an outlier, possibly because the incredible sprawl means most fans are coming from further away and thus not using transit as the model assumes. I also ran the same numbers for FCKC last year. They had the second-lowest cost ($6.80) due to a short drive and free parking, but were dead last in attendance (1,788). Clearly location isn’t the only thing affecting attendance.
On the Air
GO90 did a fairly good job of the Portland-Chicago match. The announcers mostly got the players’ names correct and didn’t often wander far off-topic of the match in hand. As with last week’s broadcast, the muted crowd and lousy weather tamped down some of the excitement. Here’s hoping winter ends soon so we can play and watch soccer without parkas and gloves.
Last week, Verizon announced that GO90 is being folded into their digital division called Oath. Oath holds the remains of AOL and Yahoo! and has its own financials and management although still nominally part of Verizon. The new president of Oath said that GO90 was “an experiment, not a product” and suggested that it will soon be broken apart. The Yahoo! part of Oath already had a digital deal with the NFL, which will be combined with GO90’s into a single Verizon offering. Since this was the primary engine of GO90, the brand will then be retired.
Naturally there was no mention of the fate of minor content like NWSL or La Liga. Presumably there are contracts in place, so the phase-out will happen gradually as those expire. Who knows where/if the 2019 season will be streamed? If you have a preference or suggestions, you may want to make noise towards @NWSL on social media before the end of the season.
The TV ratings for the first two weeks of the season are now available and they’re not looking good for Lifetime. The pregame show for the season opener rematch of the 2017 Final drew 182,000 viewers, but the match itself drew far less. I do not know the actual audience because the game broadcast fell off the list of top 150 shows of the day, which is all that bloggers without expensive Nielsen subscriptions can see. But it was below 100,000. And the second match this past weekend also did not make the top 150. Last year’s average audience for NWSL was about 94,000 so 2018 is not showing much improvement and may be doing worse.
Soccer returns to Providence Park! After a week’s break for international friendlies, the Orlando Pride kick off our home season for the third year in a row. They have never beaten the Thorns and will be severely shorthanded for this match. On Sunday April 15 at 3:00pm the Riveters will be out in force, there will be a banner raised to the champions, there might even be a tifo display. Watch for your email from the Thorns with match details - rumors hint at earlier entry times than in the past.
Also watch your email for details from the Riveters about the matchday drive. This time it’s teddy bears for kids! No, you can’t throw them on the pitch, but you can bring them to the Fanladen and make some child happy. Details at http://rosecityriveters.org.
Onward Rose City!