NWSL, ESPN reach deal to air 14 games in '19

Stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe won't disappear from television screens after the Women's World Cup, with news of a broadcast agreement between the National Women's Soccer League and ESPN that covers the remainder of the professional league's 2019 season.

The NWSL and ESPN announced an agreement Thursday in which the network will televise 14 games during the remainder of the season -- 11 regular-season games and all three playoff games. Games will air on ESPN2 or ESPNEWS and will stream on the ESPN App.

The first game aired under the agreement will be the Portland Thorns hosting the Orlando Pride on July 14, a week after the United States plays the Netherlands in the World Cup final.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"I hope our play speaks for itself and I hope there are things in play to help us grow in four years," Morgan said Friday. "ESPN2 and ESPNEWS parting with NWSL is just incredible because the talent in this league is so great. I don't know the exact number, but it's something like 40 players in the World Cup that play in the domestic league, so that's just an example to capitalize in the growth of the World Cup."

Now in its seventh season, the NWSL has operated more than twice as long as either of the previous attempts at major women's professional soccer leagues in the United States. But consistent national television exposure has been a problem throughout the NWSL's history.

The NWSL was left without a national broadcast partner at the start of this season after A+E Networks terminated an agreement that included an equity stake in the league and weekly national broadcast.

Since the current season began in April, NWSL games have only been available via streaming.

"When I found that out [about the new deal], I was very thankful," said USWNT member Lindsay Horan, who plays for Portland. "I was pretty annoyed that we didn't have a deal at the beginning of the year and it almost felt like we were going backwards. So, I think this should have come a while ago, but I am very happy that it did."

The NWSL final will be played Oct. 27 at WakeMed Soccer Park, which is home to the defending league champion North Carolina Courage in Cary, North Carolina.