Two of the biggest women’s soccer leagues in the world will get major exposure from U.S. networks this weekend: the NWSL on CBS Sports, and England’s FA Women’s Super League through NBCSN and NBC Sports’ streaming platform.
On Saturday afternoon, CBS will showcase the National Women’s Soccer League with the first of four straight weekends of games on the flagship broadcast network. Sky Blue FC visits the Washington Spirit in the opener (1 p.m.), the NWSL’s first game since the Challenge Cup ended on July 26.
The NWSL has divided its nine teams into regional pods of three each in order to reduce travel. Each team in a pod will play its home games over consecutive weekends. The Chicago Red Stars are the third team in the group with Sky Blue and Washington.
CBS made room for the NWSL beacuse of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on college football. When the Southeastern Conference delayed the start of its season until Sept. 26, CBS had gaps in its programming schedule in September, and the NWSL stepped up to fill them. In October, CBS Sports Network will air games on three consecutive Saturdays.
For now, the NWSL has announced only the first four weeks of its Fall Series schedule, with a total of seven games. The confirmed games on CBS are Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign on Sept. 12 (3:30 p.m.), and North Carolina Courage vs. Orlando Pride on Sept. 19 (1 p.m.). A draft schedule for the remaining games, reported by the Washington Post, has Chicago-Washington as the Sept. 26 game, leading into the Mississippi State-LSU SEC opener.
Three of the non-televised games will be on streaming platform Twitch: North Carolina Courage vs. Houston Dash on Sept. 11 (7 p.m.), Washington vs. Chicago on Sept. 12 (12 p.m.), and Portland Thorns vs. Utah Royals on Sept. 20 (3 p.m.). The remaining game, Chicago vs. Sky Blue on Sept. 20 (1 p.m.), will be exclusively on CBS’ streaming platform CBS All Access.
Already the home of the men’s Premier League, NBC has added a package of FA Women’s Super League games to its online streaming portfolio. The network will carry 50 of the league’s 132 games on its website. In addition, at least 12 games will be televised on NBCSN, though those broadcasts won’t all be live.
Coverage begins Saturday morning on NBC Sports’ streaming platform with Manchester City, the new home of U.S. national team stars Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, visiting Aston Villa. Mewis is expected to play, but Lavelle has not yet finished the 14-day quarantine that’s mandatory for Americans arriving in the United Kingdom.
You will have to log in through your pay-TV provider to watch the online streams – which means, yes, you’ll have to have a cable or satellite subscription to get access. As of now there will be no option for cord-cutters. Some games in the deal will be televised on NBCSN, though those broadcasts won’t all be live.
Three games will be streamed by NBC this weekend: Aston Villa vs. Manchester City (Saturday, 9:30 a.m.), Arsenal vs. Reading (Sunday, 7:30 a.m.), and Manchester United vs. Chelsea (Sunday, 9:30 a.m.). The Man United-Chelsea game will be televised on tape-delay on NBCSN at noon.
Arsenal features Dutch stars Vivianne Miedema and midfielder Daniëlle van de Donk, England’s Beth Mead, and Australian NWSL alumni Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, and Lydia Williams. Reading recently took Reign FC stalwart Jess Fishlock on loan, boosting a squad led by England’s Fara Williams and Danielle Carter.
Chelsea has two of the league’s biggest stars. Australia’s Sam Kerr is well-known to U.S. fans from her many years in the NWSL, and Denmark’s Pernille Harder just joined the Blues after leading German club Wolfsburg to two Champions League finals in three years. Harder’s reported transfer fee of $400,000 is the biggest in club women’s soccer history (though a fraction of what men’s deals command).
Manchester United features the Netherlands’ Jacky Groenen and England’s Lucy Staniforth. The club has been in in talks with U.S. stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press, and a source said a deal to bring them over could be announced in the coming days.
The 72 games that aren’t carried on NBC platforms will be available free of charge through the FAWSL’s streaming platform.
NBC’s deal was brokered by Atalanta Football, a new company whose leadership includes Princeton alum and former Relevent Sports executive Esmeralda Negron. Atalanta was launched to bring club women’s soccer leagues to broadcast outlets worldwide. So far, it has done deals with NBC in the U.S. and DAZN in Germany in Italy. Expect to see more leagues in Atalanta’s portfolio soon.