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NWSL draws record 653,000 TV audience for NWSL Challenge Cup final

The National Women’s Soccer League broke its domestic television ratings record for the second time in a month over the weekend, when the NWSL Challenge Cup final drew an average audience of 653,000 viewers on the main CBS network.

The Houston Dash defeated the Chicago Red Stars 2-0 on July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium, Utah, to win the competition.

The opening game of the quarantined summer tournament in Utah broke the previous ratings record, with an average of 572,000 viewers on the CBS network.

Prior to these two recent games, the league’s viewership record had been 190,000 viewers for a Portland Thorns-Houston Dash match in August 2014. Meanwhile, 2019 NWSL championship game on ESPN drew 166,000 viewers.

In addition to the broadcast television coverage for the tournament opener and title match, games for this summer’s NWSL competition were aired on subscription streaming service CBS All Access following a three-year broadcast deal with CBS in March. Games were streamed internationally on Twitch.

Jeff Gerttula, CBS Sports digital executive vice president and general manager, recently told SportBusiness that CBS executives were “thrilled” with the quality and excitement of the tournament and the reception of fans to network’s coverage of the event.

“We’ve loved it. The audience was just as passionate as we expected. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised as we had high expectations, but it’s really been a tremendous tournament and we’ve been very happy with the results and the quality of the play,” Gerttula said.

“We’ve been learning as we’ve gone [through this process]. We know the audience has high expectations and we’ve continuing to try to get better and we’re committed to it. We’re going to create a better product for soccer fans. The NWSL is our first step in the soccer production space and we’ve learned a lot and we’ve learned it quickly,” he said.

NWSL owners are reportedly considering whether to resume play later in the year and in what format games would take place.

According to the Washington Post, the league is considering four-team tournaments as well as friendlies between teams in geographic proximity of one another.