ESPN adds international rights to NWSL

US sports broadcaster ESPN has broadened its relationship with the National Women’s Soccer League by acquiring international rights to the sport’s top division in the United States.

The “multi-year” agreement for the regular-season and play-off games comes after the NWSL last month secured a return to national television in the US through a deal with ESPN.

The NWSL had been without a broadcast partner since A+E Networks in February ended its three-year partnership a year early. That left the league with only its live streaming tie-up with Yahoo Sports.

Amanda Duffy, the NWSL president, said: “This is an important step for NWSL to strengthen the league’s reach through ESPN’s international network. Expanding the network’s distribution internationally will continue to elevate the profile and visibility of NWSL around the world.”

Through the agreement, ESPN’s international coverage in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia is being streamed live and on-demand on ESPN Player.

ESPN’s international coverage of the NWSL across its linear and digital platforms commenced on Saturday with the Utah Royals’ 2-0 win at Orlando Pride and Portland Thorns’ 3-1 victory over Washington Spirit.

The NWSL features many of this year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup stars, such as Canada captain Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Australia’s Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars) and Brazil’s Marta (Orlando Pride).