World Cup bounce goes on: Thorns and Reign smash attendance record

Among the World Cup stars who were honored before the Portland-Seattle game were, from left, U.S. teammates  Tobin Heath,  Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Among the World Cup stars who were honored before the Portland-Seattle game were, from left, U.S. teammates Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe.
(Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

The Portland Thorns, by a huge margin the best-drawing club in the National Women’s Soccer League, surpassed their own high expectations on Wednesday, selling out their home stadium for the first time in club history.

The Thorns sold 21,144 tickets to their game against the Seattle Reign at Providence Park in Portland. Seattle won 1-0 on a second-half goal by Kim Little.

The crowd was the largest ever to see an NWSL game. Portland held the old record of 19,123, for a game last Aug. 3 against the Houston Dash.

“The thrill from the Women’s World Cup clearly drove ticket sales,” wrote Jamie Goldberg, who covers the Thorns for The Oregonian.

While the rest of the NWSL averaged just 2,982 fans a game in 2013 and 2014, the league’s first two seasons, the Thorns averaged 13,341.

The record-setting crowd of 21,144 at Providence Park in Portland, July 22, 2015. (Portland Thorns/Twitter)

The record-setting crowd of 21,144 at Providence Park in Portland, July 22, 2015. (Portland Thorns/Twitter)

This year, other teams’ attendance slipped before and during the World Cup, because so many league stars were off taking part in that tournament.

But Portland has done even better in 2015 than in the previous two years. Entering Wednesday’s game, the team was drawing 13,379 a game.

Portland’s roster includes nine players who were in the World Cup, more than any other NWSL team.

The nine, representing five countries are:

United States: Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan
Australia: Steph Catley, Clare Polkinghorne
Canada: Kaylyn Kyle, Christine Sinclair,,  Rhian Wilkinson
England: Jodie Taylor
Germany: Nadine Angerer

They were welcomed home in a special pregame ceremony Wednesday, along with Megan Rapinoe, who plays for Seattle. Even though she’s with the Reign, Rapinoe is sort of a hometown daughter, having played her collegiate soccer at the University of Portland.

Four of the World Cup players started for Portland: Heath, Sinclair, Catley, and Polkinghorne. Morgan is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to be out for three to four weeks.

Rapinoe stared for the Reign. Hope Solo, Seattle’s usual starting goalkeeper, has not yet rejoined the lineup. She is nursing a knee injury sustained in the World Cup.

The Thorns and the Reign meet again on Sunday, at Memorial Stadium in Seattle. Another robust crowd is expected; early Thursday, only upper-level grandstand seats remained..

 

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