World Cup NOW: NWSL’s Jessica Berman says women’s soccer ‘has leveled up’

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has been an undeniable success.

There have been thrilling results on the field, rising young stars who have captured the imagination of fans, and an overall sense that the game is deeper and better than ever.

One person fully invested in the future of the sport is NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. She joined the ‘World Cup NOW’ crew on Saturday to discuss what she’s seen so far at the World Cup, the current state of women’s soccer, and her plans to help grow the sport.

NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman on the future of women’s soccer | World Cup NOW

“I think it’s undeniable that the National Women’s Soccer League in the U.S., and the U.S. Women’s National Team have really set the standard globally, and what we hoped would happen, I think has happened,” she said. “The game has leveled up, and countries have invested and leagues have invested, and now we have a prospering sport across the global landscape that is competing on a global scale.”

As evidence, Berman pointed to the results on the field so far at the World Cup, which has included several surprising results.

“We’re seeing it play out here with lots of upsets and lots of talent on display, and we’re excited to now continue to raise the bar and move the goalposts because we know the time is now for the women’s game to thrive,” she said.

Berman envisions the NWSL playing a crucial role in the continued growth of women’s soccer.

“The data does not lie,” she said. “We see it with the World Cup, which of course only happens every four years, but even in the NWSL on a week-by-week, year-over-year basis. Our attendance is up 50% year-over-year. We are the No. 1 momentum sport right now.”

Every Goal of Matchday 21 | 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

The NWSL has been key to the development of U.S. players, and Berman expects that to continue, but she also thinks it’s important for her league to grow its influence elsewhere.

“We’re looking at ways to attract international talent, because we know that our players on the U.S. Women’s National Team need to be able to compete on a week-over-week basis against players who play different styles,” she said. “That will help them when they compete on a global landscape like in the World Cup.”

Berman also expects her league, working together with U.S. Soccer, to look for ways to improve how American players are developed, pointing to ideas such as creating development academies, a Division II of the NWSL and looking further at the youth landscape.

“We going to continue to examine the ways we can move the goalposts,” she said. As we know and we’ve talked about, the National Women’s Soccer League and the U.S. Women’s National Team have really defined what’s possible in this game. Now that the world has woken up to women’s soccer, it’s our responsibility to move those goalposts.

“This isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s our responsibility to share best practices and help everybody to level up so that this women’s game can thrive.”

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