Allie Long, as well as every player that took part in Sunday’s record-breaking game at Red Bull Arena, had the same message to US Soccer, the fan and investors. They have held up their end of the bargain and now it’s time for everyone else to do the same.
“Now it’s up to people that have the money to market it,” said Long when speaking about the growth of the women’s game in the United States. “People with money who want to invest need to come up. I feel like we, as players, have done everything we can.”
Long, now in her 10th year as a professional player and 15th as a national team player, has seen the ebbs and flows that come with World Cup victories. Carli Lloyd expressed a similar view citing the rise in attendance four years prior but no investment to retain interest.
Money seems to be prevalent in the men’s game as MLS signed a lucrative deal to bring an expansion team to St. Louis. All of this despite the massive failures of the men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. On the women’s side the US has raised the top trophy twice in a row and won the competition four times, yet there still lacks an investment to push the game forward.
“We won the World Cup back-to-back,” said Long. “If you’re not coming to games now… We can’t physically give more than what we have on the field. We’re trying to promote it, trying to grow this league. And I’ve been saying, if anyone was inspired by the World Cup, if you’re a kid that wants to play on the women’s national team, the NWSL is crucial for any player that wishes to ever play at that level.”
Whether the investment will follow remains to be seen. Red Bull has been hovering over Sky Blue FC for many years but has yet to either invest in the team or partner on a long term basis. ESPN as well could play a significant role if an expanded TV rights deal is negotiated.
Long is correct that the players have done everything physically possible to put a marketable product on the field. Now it’s up to the businesses to help them take it to the next level.