COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – With an announced 17,264 in attendance for Thursday’s friendly match between the U.S. Women’s National Team and Australia, Colorado showed there is a passion for the highest level of women’s soccer in the Centennial State.
But as the National Women’s Soccer League dabbles with talk of expansion, could Colorado prove to be a viable destination for an NWSL franchise? Some former players think so.
“Absolutely. I think Colorado would be a huge market and the league is still growing,” former USWNT defender and current FOX Sports analyst Christie Pearce Rampone told Pro Soccer USA. “We’re 5-6 years in now and it’s still a process of getting the awareness that there’s other teams out there than the National Team. Certain clubs are doing better than others in regards to numbers, standards and recruiting players.”
Over the years, Colorado has served as a hotbed of sorts for the women’s game, producing numerous players, including Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh, who scored a brace in the 5-3 victory over Australia. Given the environment, having a women’s pro team in the state seems to make sense.
“I think that an NWSL team would be received really well by the fans,” said Jordan Angeli, another former NWSL player, who now serves as an analyst for the league as well as MLS’ Colorado Rapids. “Colorado is a soccer state, especially for females. If you look historically at the female players we’ve produced, it’s a pretty good number that have played at the highest level. So, I think there’s a potential for that, but it is difficult.”
Colorado has previously been home to women’s professional sides, such as the Denver Diamonds and Colorado Springs United of the WPSL and the Colorado Rush and Pride of the W-League. The Rapids also fielded a women’s team in the W-League from 2003-13 before the team disbanded ahead of the league folding in 2015.
Bringing an NWSL team to Colorado wouldn’t be without challenges.
As a pro, Rampone helped launch the NWSL in 2013 as a member of Sky Blue FC until her retirement in 2017. She has first-hand experience with the uphill battle both the league and women’s soccer in general faces.
“It’s just about awareness and education around the community,” Rampone explained. “Knowing a team is there and supporting it by getting people out and the sponsors around it. Maybe even help with housing players to help with cost.”
Another important step is the backing of sponsors. Earlier this week, a deal announced by LUNA bar contributed a significant amount to the USWNT players. It’s those kinds of efforts that will be required to not only keep the women’s game afloat, but help it expand.
“The basis of women’s sports is through the sponsorships,” Rampone added. “We just have to see more growth within the National Team, within the league and more sponsors stepping up.”
It’s important that the NWSL doesn’t make the same mistakes as prior women’s leagues. That, along with some prior turmoil within the league, explains the league’s current measured approach on expansion.
But if 17,000 fans roaring for a Mallory Pugh goal is an indicator, fans in Colorado are ready for a women’s professional team.