The National Women’s Soccer League offseason is in full swing with the two expansion teams announcing their arrivals with some flashy trades. But let’s take one final look back at the NWSL Championship.
It is finally an event
The NWSL Championship is finally an event. It was poignant that OL Reign were at the game since they participated in 2014 and 2015 and three current players — Lauren Barnes, Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe — and head coach Laura Harvey were all part of that team. They all remember the impromptu media session under rainy bleachers at Seattle Pacific University. That was 2014, a year before NWSL gave us the slip by making the late change to the pre-determined final venue and put the game on a Thursday night.
That was the turning point though, albeit a narrow turn that took awhile to complete. There was some buzz during that September/October week in 2015. Subsequent finals in Houston and Orlando missed the mark for a variety of reasons we don’t need to revisit here. The two years after that saw home sides — Portland in 2018, North Carolina in 2019 — reach the final. And then COVID.
The years since the pandemic have brought a seismic change to the NWSL Championship. Whether it was the player-driven venue change in 2021 to avoid a morning local kick in Portland, a rallying cry after the Paul Riley abuse story broke or just the physical and financial convenience of Louisville, fans turned up for that match. The atmosphere inside Lynn Family Stadium was off the charts that day. Last year in Washington D.C. and this time around in San Diego maintained the trend.
San Diego was also plastered with NWSL Championship signage from the airport to light poles and city buses. It felt like a real event in a city that had its arms open to embrace it. Media Day was held at a downtown venue with rental prices starting at $6,500.
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