The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup generated a lot of excitement and big TV ratings, thanks in large part to the U.S. team's run to the title. And if you were among the 14.3 million people watching on television as the U.S. beat the Netherlands, 2-0, maybe you were wondering if there was a way to watch those same players take to the pitch more than once every four years.
As it turns out, there is.
The National Women's Soccer League, or NWSL, is the top women's professional league in the U.S. The league is now in its seventh season, making it the most successful women's club league in U.S. history. And it's where you can see all the players from the U.S. national team — not to mention some of the top names from other countries — in action every week.
The interest in this summer's World Cup has raised the profile of the NWSL, with the league striking a deal with ESPN to carry some of its matches, including the playoffs and championship, on its various channels. The first of those 14 matches aired on ESPNews last weekend, and even the games ESPN isn't covering are available to stream.
The bottom line: If the excitement of the Women's World Cup made you want to check out more women's soccer, you've got more opportunities than ever to catch a match via TV or streaming device. Here's where you can watch NWSL matches and your assorted streaming options.
Where can I watch NWSL matches?
Right as the Women's World Cup was wrapping up, ESPN said it planned to cover 14 of the remaining matches in the NWSL's 2019 season. Eight of those will air on ESPNews while the remaining six will be on ESPN2. Both playoff semifinals and the Oct. 27 championship match are among the games airing on ESPN2. (A full schedule of ESPN's NWSL matches appears at the end of this article.)
Those ESPN games are just a drop in the bucket of the remaining matches in the NWSL season. Any game not airing on ESPN can be found on Yahoo Sports, which you can view on your browser, Android device, iPhone or iPad, Apple TV or Roku set-top box. Best of all, Yahoo's app doesn't require you to log in with a cable or satellite TV provider, so anyone can watch NWSL matches streaming via Yahoo.
You can find a full schedule of upcoming matches at the NWSL website.
How can I stream NWSL matches airing on ESPN channels?
Just as with other sports, ESPN streams NWSL matches on both its website and its ESPN mobile app (Android, iOS). So you can watch NWSL matches on the go, so long as you have a smartphone handy.
That's the good news; the bad news is ESPN's app requires you to log in with credentials from a cable or satellite TV provider. So cord-cutters won't be able to watch matches on ESPN, though the games streaming on Yahoo Sports will still be readily available.
How can I stream NWSL matches if I don't have cable?
You're not totally shut out of ESPN's NWSL coverage if you've given up cable, though you will have to sign up for a streaming service that includes ESPN in its package of channels. Fortunately, with the exception of FuboTV, the major streaming TV providers all feature ESPN's channels, and sometimes in their least expensive tier.
DirecTV Now: ESPN2 is part of DirecTV's Now's entry level More package, which costs $50 a month for 45-plus channels. To get ESPNews, you'll need to upgrade to the more expensive Max package, which gives you 60-plus channels for $70 a month.
Hulu + Live TV: Both ESPN2 and ESPNnews are among the channels featured in the $45-a-month Hulu + Live TV service. Even better, a cloud DVR feature saves 30 hours of programming, so you can record NWSL matches to watch later if you can't be there at kickoff.
Playstation Vue: The $50-a-month access package includes ESPN2, but you'll need to pay another $5 a month for the Core tier if you want ESPNews, too. PlayStation Vue also offers a cloud DVR for recording programs to watch at your leisure.
Sling TV: Sling TV's Orange package of channels includes ESPN2, and thanks to an ongoing promotion, you get a 40% discount on the usual monthly rate, bringing your bill down to $15 a month. However, if you want the full slate of ESPN's NWSL coverage, you'll need to add the service's Sports Extra add-on, which includes ESPNews. That's another $10 a month.
YouTube TV: YouTube TV's 70-plus channels include both ESPN2 and ESPNews. The $50-a-month service also has a cloud DVR with no limits on how much you can record.
How can I use a VPN to livestream NWSL matches?
If you're outside the U.S., either because you're traveling or you live there, NWSL matches are available on the league's website or its mobile app (Android, iOS). Otherwise, if you'd like to catch ESPN's broadcast, you may need to turn to a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN makes it seem as if you're surfing the web from another country, allowing you to access the streaming services available in that country (provided you're able to log in to those services, of course.) So, someone who subscribes to ESPN in the U.S. but is traveling in Europe, would still be able to stream a match airing on ESPN with the help of a VPN.
We've tested a lot of services to find the best overall VPN. Our top pick is ExpressVPN, thanks to superb speeds and customer support. But there are other VPN services worth considering. Here are our top picks.
Express VPN: Whether you've used VPNs before or are new to them, ExpressVPN is a fantastic choice, due to its speed, security and ease of use. It will set you back around $6 for a monthly subscription, thanks to a 49% discount, you can enjoy three free months if you opt for an annual subscription. ExpressVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied.
NordVPN: A month with NordVPN costs $11.95, though as with other VPN services, the rate drops if you commit to a longer period of service. If you're particularly obsessed with privacy, you may want to do that with NordVPN: it uses 2084-bit encryption, and it's easy to use with streaming services.
Windscribe: You won't get the fastest speeds with this VPN. But Windscribe's free tier does offer up to 10GB per month, while a monthly plan sets you back only $9. And you get unlimited connections with Windscribe.
What should I watch for in the NWSL?
If it's the U.S. Women's National Team that's sparked your interest in watching more women's soccer, the NWSL is the place to be. All 23 members of the national team play for one of the NWSL's nine teams. Golden Ball winner Megan Rapinoe plays for Reign FC, while Rose Lavelle, another star of the tournament, is on the Washington Spirit. The Portland Thorns, North Carolina Courage and Chicago Red Stars have the most national team members on their squads, with four players each.
As for international stars, Marta — one of the most decorated players in the history of the women's game — is currently with the Orlando Pride. Keep an eye on the Chicago Red Stars, though, because that's where Australia's Sam Kerr plays. Kerr is currently the top scorer in the NWSL even after missing more than a month of club games for the World Cup.
The 2019 NWSL season began in April, and it will wrap up with matches on Oct. 12. All told, there are 24 regular-season games. The top four teams make the postseason, with the winners of the single-elimination semifinals squaring off in a championship match on Oct. 27. The title came will be played in Cary, North Carolina.
Entering this weekend's games, the North Carolina Courage — last year's champions — are jockeying for the top spot with the Portland Thorns, which won the title in 2017. Reign FC and the Washington Spirit occupy the two other playoff spots, but the Utah Royals and Chicago Red Stars are just outside of fourth place in the standings. In other words, expect the playoff race to come down to the final weeks of the season.
Which NWSL matches can I watch on ESPN?
ESPN aired its first match last weekend, an exciting 4-3 thriller in which the Portland Thorns beat the Orlando Pride on a last-second goal. Thirteen more matches remain on ESPN's schedule, though, between now and late October.
- Sunday, July 21: Chicago Red Stars vs. North Carolina Courage, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Saturday, July 27: Utah Royals FC vs. North Carolina Courage, 10 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Friday, Aug. 2: Houston Dash vs. Reign FC, at 7 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Sunday, Aug. 11: Portland Thorns FC vs. North Carolina Courage, 3 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Sunday, Aug. 18: Sky Blue FC vs. Reign FC, 1 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Sunday, Aug. 25: Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars, 3 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Wednesday, Sept. 11: Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Tuesday, Sept. 25: North Carolina Courage vs. Houston Dash, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
- Wednesday, Sept. 25: Houston Dash vs. Washington Spirit, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Sunday, Sept. 29: Reign FC vs. Portland Thorns FC, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
- Sunday, Oct. 20: NWSL Semifinals, 2 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Sunday, Oct. 27: NWSL Championship, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)