Lind­sey Ho­ran hopes World Cup suc­cesses boost NWSL

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS - By Anne Peter­son As­so­ci­ated Press

LYON, France — Mid­fielder Lind­sey Ho­ran hopes the at­ten­tion on women’s soc­cer and the United States’ run at the World

Cup boost the pro­fes­sional league back home.

The Na­tional Women’s Soc­cer League is in the midst of its sev­enth sea­son and has been more suc­cess­ful than any other at­tempt at a pro women’s league in the United States. But the NWSL has seen re­cent strug­gles with slow growth, a need for sponsors and a lack of tele­vi­sion exposure.

Ho­ran, who plays for the NWSL’S Port­land Thorns, hopes the league ex­pe­ri­ences a World Cup bump — both for the rest of this sea­son and be­yond. She’d like the league to see the suc­cess of the Thorns, who av­er­age crowds of around 17,000 a game.

“Hope­fully it grows, hope­fully we get more teams, and more peo­ple buy into us and re­al­ize how im­por­tant it is for the women’s game — and that our NWSL gets bet­ter and bet­ter so we can get bet­ter for our na­tional team,” she said.

The league got some pos­i­tive news ear­lier this week when ESPN an­nounced it will tele­vise 14 matches this sea­son, the net­work’s first NWSL broad­casts since 2014. Eight games will be broad­cast on ESPN News and six on ESPN2, in­clud­ing both semi­fi­nals and the cham­pi­onship on Oct. 27.

The NWSL and A+E Net­works ter­mi­nated their broad­cast agree­ment in Fe­bru­ary, leav­ing the league with no TV part­ner. Last sea­son, a game aired each week on the Life­time chan­nel.

A+E sur­ren­dered its stake in the league, but Life­time re­mains a jer­sey spon­sor.

“I was pretty an­noyed that we didn’t have a (tele­vi­sion) deal at the be­gin­ning of the year. It al­most felt like we were go­ing back­ward,” Ho­ran said. “So I think this should have come a while ago, but I’m very happy that it did.”

But it’s not just the

NWSL. Ho­ran would like to see women’s soc­cer lifted glob­ally in the wake of the World Cup. The de­fend­ing cham­pion U.S. na­tional team plays the Nether­lands on Sun­day for the ti­tle.

“Hope­fully every­one sees this around the world and every­one sees what the women’s game is turn­ing into and how much exposure we’re get­ting. You’ve seen the numbers through­out this World Cup, how many peo­ple are watch­ing, how many peo­ple we were get­ting at the sta­di­ums,” she said. “And hope­fully, clubs and own­ers and every­one sees that.”

Fol­low­ing high school, Ho­ran headed over­seas to play in France for Paris Saint-ger­main for sev­eral years. She moved back to the United States to join the Thorns in 2016. Fel­low Thorns Tobin Heath, Emily Son­nett and goal­keeper Adri­anna Franch are also on the U.S. squad in France.

Na­tional team play­ers are al­lo­cated across the league’s nine teams and U.S. Soc­cer pays their salaries.

Ho­ran, who has 74 ap­pear­ances with the na­tional team and 10 goals, came off the bench for the team’s first two knock­out matches be­tween Spain and France, be­fore start­ing in the 2-1

U.S. semi­fi­nal vic­tory over Eng­land. She served Alex Mor­gan the go-ahead goal.

“I think af­ter the semi I was very emo­tional, that’s be­cause this has been ev­ery­thing a lit­tle girl’s dreamt of, and that goes for ev­ery­body on the team,” she said. “I think at that mo­ment we won and the whis­tle was blown it was so sur­real and all the emo­tions kind of came out. Now it’s just re­al­iz­ing this is real and now we still have a fi­nal to go push for. This tour­na­ment’s not over.”

Ho­ran jokes that be­cause of her time in France she’s the best French speaker on the team, throw­ing a bit of shade at Alex Mor­gan, Megan Rapi­noe and the oth­ers who have also played for club teams in France.

She’s clearly hav­ing the time of her life.

“Ab­so­lutely,” she said. “I think this ob­vi­ously has been the best ex­pe­ri­ence of my life. Play­ing in a World Cup and do­ing as well as we’ve done, it’s been ab­so­lutely amaz­ing.”

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