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GERMANTOWN – The Washington Spirit capped off a busy January by formally announcing their first local television broadcast partnership with NBC Sports Washington and online broadcaster Monumental Sports Network to show 12 games during the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.
The deal will enhance the team’s viewership throughout the Metropolitan region and reach out to current supporters who are unable to attend Spirit matches. Also, the team will look to leverage new fans through the attention garnered from this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament in France.
Currently, the Spirit has two possible World Cup-bound players representing the United States in striker Mallory Pugh and midfielder Rose Lavelle.
“Washington Spirit soccer is an exciting product, and the Washington, D.C., region is home to one of the sport’s biggest and most-engaged fan bases in the nation,” said NBC Sports Washington Senior VP and General Manager Damon Phillips. “Along with our partners at Monumental Sports Network, we are pleased to be able to bring live coverage of the team and its players to fans this season.”
The club, established in 2012, did not have its own local television partner, as games were posted on YouTube until 2017, when the league established a digital rights deal with Go90, an over-the-top online video service owned and operated by Verizon.
The company was discontinued in July 2018, and since then, the league produces its own broadcast in a central location in Florida to be streamed out of its own app and website. Lifetime, which broadcasts a Game of the Week nationally, showed three Spirit games last season.
“This agreement with Monumental Sports and NBC Sports Washington is truly groundbreaking,” Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan said. “My teammates and I value every avenue for enhancing the bond with our fans, and this partnership enables us to take it to another level.”
Spirit officials confirmed that the local broadcast will be the same feed used on the league’s live-streaming services. Each game will have a different commentary team.
According to team representative Quinn Casteel, the television broadcast schedule will be announced in the final weeks after the league schedule is set and finalized. According to reports, Spirit and Audi Field officials are in negotiations to schedule a regular season game in the soccer stadium in Washington, D.C. Team officials could not comment on the ongoing negotiations.
A possible time frame during which the game could be played would be following the Women’s World Cup. In the three months following the Women’s World Cup, D.C. United, the venue’s primary tenant, are scheduled to play five home games between July and September. Last season, the Spirit played during the stadium’s inaugural year, losing 1-0 against the Portland Thorns FC on Aug. 25.
The Spirit had had a busy start to 2019, introducing the club’s first-ever CEO, Larry Best, and hiring Richie Burke as the team’s new head coach. Burke was the former coach for the D.C. United Under-23 team, and together with Best, hit the ground running in retooling the Spirit roster by drafting five total players in the NWSL College Draft on Jan. 10.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said Burke. “I think as a football club we knocked it out of the park, and the picks that we got are all fabulous players. I think every single one of them will come into our training ground and from minute-one, will be knocking on the door for a starting role in our football club.”
Four of their five picks came in the first round, and the first two selections required trades for the Spirit to receive them. To obtain the No. 3 overall pick, Washington traded its No. 29 pick and three players — defenders Caprice Dydasco and Estelle Johnson and goalkeeper DiDi Haracic — to Sky Blue FC. With the pick, selected Stanford University midfielder Jordan DiBiasi, who was a part of the Cardinals’ 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup championship team.
The Spirit selected defender Samantha Staab out of Clemson with the fourth overall pick. In her senior year, she scored a goal, added 11 assists, and named to the United Soccer Coaches All-America third team for 2018.
To cap off their first round in the draft, the Spirit added defender Tegan McGrady, who earned her first cap as a member of the senior U.S. Women’s National Team in April 2018, and midfielder Dorian Bailey out of North Carolina University.