The post-World Cup bounce

July, 27, 2011

Although the Women's World Cup is over, the increased attention on the sport and the members of the United States women's national team has spilled over to their domestic club league, Women's Professional Soccer. In the past two weeks, two teams have set records for attendance while a third saw a big boost in its first post-World Cup match.

MagicJack, the club side that boasts star striker Abby Wambach, has been the biggest beneficiary, drawing a WPS-record crowd of 15,404 last week in Wambach's hometown of Rochester (vs. Western New York Flash) and then a club-record 9,345 fans for the Atlanta Beat when it hosted Wambach's side.

But it's not just magicJack getting all the attention. The Boston Breakers hosted the Western New York Flash on Sunday and drew 6,222 fans -- its highest attendance of the season. The Flash have been the marquee team this year, with five-time player of the year Marta playing alongside Canadian striker Christine Sinclair and American star Alex Morgan.

The players are hoping the World Cup bounce will continue throughout the summer.

"Once people come out, they like what they see and it's just been a problem to get those people out that first time," Sinclair said Sunday after a 2-2 draw with the Breakers. "Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going and keep producing on the field, put a show on for the fans and they'll continue to come back."

Defender Ali Riley, a California native who played in the World Cup for New Zealand, agreed. "It's definitely long overdue. If it takes the World Cup, the U.S. getting to the final, to get the attention of people all over the country, then fine. So be it," she said. "The U.S. players are getting a lot of press right now. The more they can push for the WPS, the better. … The better soccer we can play, [that] will help our own case and all the players who are getting press, if they can keep pushing for it. That's really all we can do as players, and then we have to hope that people still believe and still want to watch women's soccer."

Only Sky Blue FC, which plays in New Jersey, did not see a World Cup attendance boost, drawing 1,593 fans to Saturday's meeting with the Philadelphia Independence. The record-setting Northeast heat that day certainly did not help, though.

Rising star: Morgan, a forward on the U.S. national team and Western New York Flash, continues to steal the spotlight whenever she subs into a game. Sunday night in Boston, the World Cup hero drew the loudest cheers of all the players on the field and then scored a brilliant goal to tie the game in the 87th minute. Morgan is known for her late goals, but the style of this one, a deft flick with the outside of her left foot to beat Breakers goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, has to be seen to be believed.

"Any kind of chance I got, I was going to take it. Luckily, that one went in," Morgan said after the game. She tried to downplay it, but eventually admitted, "That was definitely a top goal."

Morgan already seems like a lock for WPS Rookie of the Year with three goals and two assists in eight games with the Flash.

Famous faces:Off the field, it's a new world for USWNT members, who find themselves being recognized in public after their World Cup performances drew so much support in the United States. Defender Amy LePeilbet, back with the Boston Breakers, was surprised by the attention.

"I was just in Boston Common the other day and someone asked me if I was on the World Cup team," she said Sunday. "I couldn't believe it. I was in normal clothes. I couldn't believe that someone actually recognized my face. It was different for me."

International news: Canada coach Carolina Morace and her entire staff abruptly resigned last Wednesday, just two days after the conclusion of the World Cup. The Canadians, ranked No. 6 in the world heading into the tournament, disappointed in Germany and were eliminated in their second game.

Morace had been at odds with the federation heading into the tournament, and the players threatened to boycott the tournament if Morace was not kept on through the 2012 Olympics, making her resignation even more shocking.

"We're all in a little bit of shock because we think she's a tremendous coach and we fully support her," Sinclair, Canada's captain, said. "We didn't do so well in the World Cup, but I think the build-up for the World Cup, the two years before that, wasn't a fluke. Getting ranked sixth in the world wasn't a fluke. We played badly in one game that obviously mattered most and we're sad to see her go."


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